A man runs past burning shelters as a fire burns at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 9, 2020 | Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters
A man runs past burning shelters as a fire burns at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 9, 2020 | Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters

A Greek court sentenced four Afghan asylum seekers to ten years of prison for their part in a fire that destroyed the Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos in Greece last year.

The court in Chios found four Afghan men guilty of arson, endangering human life, and destruction of property for causing a fire in Moria camp on the island of Lesbos last year in September 2020.  

Their lawyers said the court treated the case with a "lack of sense of fairness" and told the news agency Agence France Press (AFP) they had filed for an appeal right after the verdict was handed to them.   

The young Afghans were transferred to the court in handcuffs and were expected to return to the Avlona jail outside Athens, where they had been detained before the trial. 

Defense lawyers said the trial was not fair.

The prosecution, the lawyers said, was mainly based on the testimony of another Afghan asylum seeker who identified the six as the perpetrators. 

Also read: Two Afghan youths jailed for starting Moria fire

The defendants claim the Afghans were targeted by the witness, an ethnic Pashtun, as they are Hazara, a persecuted minority in Afghanistan. Other witnesses including police officers, firefighters called to the scene in September 2020, and staff from the European Asylum Service and non-governmental groups who worked at the camp, testified before the court. 

Members of foreign solidarity groups, like Civil Fleet, have called for the defendants to be freed. 

Overcrowded

Built for 3,000 people, the camp housed almost four times its capacity in overcrowded shelters without proper sanitation, as hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived on the island in 2015 hoping to settle elsewhere in the EU. The two fires that broke out on September 8 and 9 destroyed the camp.

Greek authorities believe camp settlers deliberately lit the fires after quarantine measures were imposed in the camp.

No one died in the fires, but the incident made thousands of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees homeless amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Families with small children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities had to sleep in the open for a week after the camp was destroyed by the fires.  

With AFP

Also read: 9 months after Moria fire, work on new Lesbos migrant camp still hasn't begun

 

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