Two Afghan youths have been sentenced to five years in prison each. A juvenile court on Lesbos found them guilty of starting the fire that destroyed the Moria refugee camp in September last year.
The Juvenile Court of Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos handed down the sentences late on Tuesday (March 9) after a six-hour session, the local bar association told AFP.
The two youths, A.A. and M.H., were found guilty of arson and will likely spend their terms in Avlona prison for minors and young adults on the Greek mainland, according to the aid organization Legal Centre Lesvos.
Both defendants were 17 at the time of the fire and claimed that they had nothing to do with it. They said they were not at the camp when the fire broke out, according to the newspaper Ekathimerini.
A 42-year-old Afghan man who arrived on Lesbos in December 2019 had testified to police that the fire had been started by a group of five people, who were arrested one week after the fire. Another suspect was identified by police from a video posted on Facebook, Ekathimerini reports.
Legal Centre Lesvos, which represented the defendants at the trial, said there had been a "lack of credible evidence" presented and that they would work to overturn the verdict on appeal.
"While we are disappointed with today's result, things could have been much worse for the two young men," the group said in a statement. "The arson conviction alone could have carried a sentence of up to 10 years in prison."
Six Afghans accused of arson
A.A. and M.H. were unaccompanied minors when they arrived in Greece. They were 17 at the time of the arrest, but recently turned 18.
Along with four other young men from Afghanistan, who remain detained and await trial, they had been accused of arson with risk to human life and membership in a criminal group.
The court in Lesbos ruled that while A.A. and M.H. were guilty of arson, but they were not guilty of belonging to a criminal group.
Two consecutive fires completely destroyed the Moria camp after riots had erupted there on September 8. At the time, roughly 13,000 refugees and migrants were living there in notoriously squalid conditions.
After the blaze, thousands of people, most of them from Afghanistan, Syria and various African countries, were left without shelter or sanitation, among them families with young children, pregnant women and older people. They were left sleeping on roadsides for days until another tent camp could be erected.