Monday, March 22, 2010

The End of the Beginning

Despite my warm and fuzzy thoughts of yesterday, I wasn't expecting miracles today. Hoping maybe, but not expecting. But not once did I expect that this trial would be postponed, again, this time until 2011.

This happened for several reasons, none of which would ever have flown in a proper court of law. Firstly, the defendant's lawyer claimed she was busy with another case. Which is fine in theory, except it's a case she picked up last week. Knowing full well, of course, what was on her agenda today.

When she asked for the postponement for this reason, our awesome, chain-cigar-smoking lawyer asked for a continuance instead, which meant we would have resumed after the Easter holidays, as I'd expected. The judge said no. And wham, January 2011 it was - for two rapes that happened in 2005.

And a convicted serial rapist strolled out of the courtroom and into downtown Athens.

The thing is, even if neither postponement nor continuance were granted, we still couldn't have gone ahead with the case today. Why? Because an interpreter, required to be present by law, was absent. He missed the last trial, too. (Which got postponed for other, equally stupid reasons.) Legally, he should have been convicted for this. It's a requirement of the court to have an interpreter, and if the one they asked for isn't available, it's their duty to find another one. In other words, the court did their absolute best for this trial not to happen.

Meanwhile, while the interpreter does whatever he does on his days off, this convict - yes, that's me - will remain as such in the eyes of the Greek law. After failing to appear at the July 2007 trial, despite giving an official reason through the Canadian Department of Justice, I was not just fined but CONVICTED. The courts refuse to drop this charge until the end of the trial, which at this rate could be by the time I'm 85 or so.

Needless to say, the other victim and I are devastated. I think I'm still in shock, actually. None of this has computed, because if it had, I think I'd be hiding under a blanket in the dark, rather than writing this. It's survival mode I guess, which may be the same thing that kept me from sporting a sign today while awaiting cousin Tony in a public square, which would have read, "DON'T LOOK AT ME, DON'T TALK TO ME AND GOD HELP YOU DON'T TOUCH ME."

It's hard to accept that most people have no idea what it feels like, being in this city, especially on my own. But I think I'm starting to understand something: why would they? Unless it happened to you, or someone you really care about, you don't know.

But it happened to me. And today, I had to see the disgusting excuse of a man who did it smarming his way around the courtroom as if he owned the place, while his lawyer argued that it was an inconvenience to HER to continue this trial in the next nine months.

I had thought, told myself, that if this wasn't over in a month, it was over for me. But now I know that's not the case. I knew this was bigger than our trial, but I had no idea how much bigger. In the next nine months, we have to do everything possible to make as many people as possible aware of how pathetically the Athenian courts have dealt with this trial. Maybe we should make t-shirts. They could read:

"THE GREEK JUSTICE SYSTEM: THE ULTIMATE OXYMORON."

That's all for now.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Natalie, words cannot express how I feel right now. Knowing certain things about my country's justice system, I thought that maybe this trial would not happen today (though wished the contrary) - but I never would have expected that the reasons would be so stupid, so totally unacceptable by common sense. I hope that this will only make you and the other lady more determined to send this monster at prison. I will be keeping an eye on your blog and inform everyone I know of this incredible case. Please, accept my best wishes. Maria, Athens

Anonymous said...

my heart goes out to you hon. i wish there was something i cld do other than ephemeral moral support. let me know if you think of anything. will let you know if i'm passing thru greece with a tyre iron and some spare time on my hands. glad ur sticking it out, but would support you in any case. XO L.

bollybutton said...

Natalie I am really sorry to hear about this. Just wanted you to know I think you are really brave and setting a great example to women everywhere to stand up and be heard. I am sorry the Greek courts are treating you so badly. (hugs) Bollybutton in Athens

Tina said...

sweetie,
yes, as you wrote: its very hard to imagine what you are going through right now - and to know that i cant really help you to feel better again, though i will be trying to support you as much as possible and to make your time over here as wonderful as possible - is hard and Im terribly sorry about that. I can only try to imagine and offer you an open heart and my hands to help. What I feel for that f... court system is even more anger than I ever felt for years for the human rights situation in Tibet and the people suffering there (and you know how much I cared/care for that) - but the difference is, that this time it is my wonderful, brave and amazing friend who is suffering - again - and words cant express how much I care and how much I wish I could somehow help you.
Im there - anytime.
Tina XXX

Brionna said...

Natalie - I don't know how many times my husband and I have discussed the uselessness of ever trying to take something to court here in Greece. And we were only talking about small things of people owing us money less than 500 Euros. We always think of the relatively small things. But to hear your story, which is appalling on sooo many different levels, it really makes me quite angry. And powerless. I'm sorry that this happened to you, and doubly sorry that it happened in a place that has given you no easy recourse for justice.

Nikos Alexiou said...

Ah,Natalie...as i said in my previous post,Greece is a totally corrupted state.
Now you understand that i didn't say it by chance it's a fact that every smart greek living here knows well.
But you shouldn't give up,that's what they want,to make you so tired to say "the hell with it".Instead do the opposite,first tell all the world your story and second don't let it go,but become more and more determined to send this man to prison.Don't leave it,that's what they are trying to make you do.

Anonymous said...

Dear Natalie!
I can't even begin to imagine how you might be feeling.Please be patient and if you need anything please feel free to contact me via skype(natty_andrianou)or facebook(nataliaandrianou@yahoo.gr)
Natalia Andrianou(Lefkada)

Anonymous said...

I just want to add my support to the other comments already on your page. I'll do my best to publicise your treatment at the hands of the courts and wish you lots of courage. Elizabeth THESSALONIKI

Anonymous said...

I hope you get a conviction in the end. Until then, hang in there.

Anonymous said...

I join my voice, angry and shame for my country's justice system and Institutions non existing any more.
Lots of us, greek citizens, we struggle everyday with this chaos and oxymora.
My wishes for good luck!
Evi

Anonymous said...

As someone who has experienced what you have albeit in a different country, you have my deepest sympathy. It is also why I am commenting anonymously. I know too many people in cyberspace and I'm not interested in telling my story. My Greek husband thinks that bribes have worked their magic and even if you do get to trial the perp will be somehow exonerated, sadly. I was just 20 on my first real vacation in the Bahamas when what happened to you also happened to me. I didn't have the courage to go to the police, I just licked my wounds and came home. It is probably my greatest regret in life. Take care...

ΔΕΣΠΟΙΝΑ ΣΙΦΝΙΑΔΟΥ said...

This makes sooooooo angry. I hate all of Greek justice . Justice is blind? yes she is. Incompetent, uncaring, self interested pieces of shit. Shame on them. Hang in there and fight for your rights.

Hope we could help you more practically, instead of only writing comments :(

CaliforniaKat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sleuth said...

Dear Natalie,
I am absolutely appalled by this gross breach of your rights and I feel deeply ashamed of being Greek!

I admire you for your courage knowing how hard this is, but your struggle means a lot to all women who have been raped.

For whatever it's worth I've uploaded details about the mistrial on facebook and I'll do whatever I can to publicise it further.

Leo Kalovyrnas

sleuth said...

Dear Natalie,
I've just been forwarding information about your case to several journalist friends of mine and the lgbt community in an effort to publicise it, gain support and denounce the miscarriage of justice. I'll let you know if there is any news.
best
Leo Kalovyrnas

Dimitris P. said...

I am very sorry to hear what you've been through. I want you to know that many Greeks are on your side. I hope that all goes well for you. Don't give up!

N said...

Thank you Leo. You can also contact me at natalie@nataliekarneef.com. I really appreciate your help.

Natalie

Anonymous said...

All I can say is don't give up!

Hanna from Finland

feleki said...

Natalie, your story really moved us. You should know that you 're not alone, even though we can scarcely imagine what you have been through. We translated a part of your story to our blog. All the best!

Anonymous said...

i am really sorry
is sad and it makes me angry too
dont give up
just dont give up

matrix said...

Natalie, I'm very sorry to hear your story. As a Greek myself, I know that this is the way Greek justice works.
It might be the case that the criminal that abused you has a damn good lawyer, with very useful "friendships" among the judges.
However, the chances are (perhaps, a 99% probability) that there has been no collusion taking place. The truth may be simpler: the criminal was smart enough to change his lawyer few days before the trial, in order to exploit the standard practices of the Greek justice system, and get the trial postponed.
Your lawyer could do nothing to avert this.The judge would be very reluctant to decline the claim of the criminal's lawyer that she cannot handle this case at this time point due to lack of time; in other words, the judge would never make a lawyer lose their client. It is just a standard practice, you must live with it, as 11 million native people (plus 1 million immigrants) do.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Dear Natalie,
I would like to add my voice to the people sending you their support. I am so sad and sorry to hear your story and especially that after you have had the courage to speak up and try to get this man locked away you are coming up against such problems. I commend your bravery and I wish you all the best.
Zoe