Was Hussein Khavari (known only as “Hussein K.” in Germany) released from a Greek prison early in order that he might flee to Germany, and thus get him out of the Greeks’ hair? Or was it a matter of simple incompetence on the part of the Greek government?
Mr. Khavari, the alleged rapist and murderer of Maria L. in Freiburg, had been sentenced to ten years in prison in Greece for attempted murder. Yet the Greek judicial authorities released him after he had served only a year and a half of that sentence.
Below is a brief excerpt from a press conference in which German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière discusses the murder of Maria L. and the early release of her accused killer.
The following article from Die Welt, also translated by Egri Nök, examines the release of Hussein K. in greater detail:
Was Hussein K. released for ideological reasons?
by Boris Kálnoky
[Photo caption: Jails in Greece are over crowded, protests and revolts are not rare incidents.]
The Freiburg suspect had already been sentenced to ten years of imprisonment and served jail time in Greece. Even so, he was released as part of an amnesty, allegedly because of over crowded prisons. An expert supposes that in fact it was about party-political reasons for the Syriza government.
Much has been said and written on the case of the alleged woman-killer of Freiburg, an Afghan refugee who was already in prison for a similar crime in Greece. Ten years’ imprisonment was the verdict after he had thrown a young woman off a cliff.
However, after only a year and a half, he was released in October 2015 as part of an amnesty, with the requirement to report regularly to the police.
Instead, he soon disappeared for Germany. The Greek authorities announced a manhunt, but only within the country — European Ministries of the Interior therefore had no information about him.
The Greeks forwent an international manhunt
The alleged murderer of Freiburg was convicted in Greece because of a murder-related offense, Federal Minister of the Interior de Maizière said. He was identified with no doubt. He held the Greek authorities in partial fault.
“Incompetence,” suggests Dimitris Papadimitriou, a Greek researcher at the University of Manchester. The purpose of the amnesty was to create space in Greece’s overcrowded prisons by freeing mainly prisoners whose offenses were not particularly severe.
In the case of such less serious cases, it is not customary to alert international authorities if the person released breaches his reporting obligation and disappears.
Rulebook slowdown? Or lack of attention?
Perhaps, suggests Papadimitriou, the responsible authorities had just been “engaging in a work-to-rule”. As the perpetrator had been released in the context of an amnesty for less serious crimes, it was perhaps not deemed necessary to report to the partner authorities abroad. Or they just did not pay attention.
The man, however, had been sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for attempted murder. Not a light offense, and Papadimitriou neither understands why the case was not reported abroad, nor why the man was released at all.
The German Ministry of the Interior has announced that it would demand an explanation from the Greek authorities on their lack of inactivity.
The Ministry of Justice in Athens justified its decision with the “good conduct” of the prisoner. “Even with very good behavior, a release is normally only considered when at least half of the sentence has been served,” says Papadimitriou. In this case five years.
One goal: the release of a leftist bomb-maker
But the amnesty had reduced the threshold to 20 percent for prison sentences between three and ten years. A fifth of ten years — in this case, it would have been two years. The perpetrator, according to media reports, had only served 1.5 years.
There have been speculations as to whether the Greek leadership simply wanted to get rid of as many criminals as possible with the amnesty. It came in October 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis. A large proportion of the Greek prison population consisted of migrants; therefore a large proportion of those amnestied were migrants. So — according to critics — it was only reasonable to assume that many of them would move with the great refugee stream towards Germany.
The reason, however, was probably a different one: the party-political dynamics within the left-populist Syriza government. “The left wing was still very strong in the party at that time,” says the Syriza specialist Papadimitriou, “and a broad liberalization of the penitentiary system was a central theme for these forces.” They even tried to press the easing of detention conditions and the lessening of penalties for Greek leftist terrorists, as well as the release of the imprisoned bomb maker of the terrorist group “17 November” Savvas Xiros.
Dangerous violent criminals were released
So the amnesty was a result of idealistic beliefs, not to get rid of prisoners and point them in the direction of Germany, the researcher says. To some extent, the amnesty had even been a reasonable idea, but it went astray for ideological reasons, and out of incompetence.
The eventual Freiburg suspect was not the only dubious beneficiary of the amnesty. The step caused outrage among portions of the population, because dangerous violent criminals were also released.
One of them, Vassilis Stefanakos, who is notorious in Greece, was sentenced to several terms of imprisonment (21 years, 14 years, 14.5 years) for various offenses ranging from abetting murder, extortion, and smuggling, to aiding the escape of a prisoner. He also allegedly cooperated with a terrorist group. He was released in this amnesty after serving only eight years.
The courts are absolutely overwhelmed
Accordingly, opposition politicians criticized the amnesty sharply, and demanded that only perpetrators who had committed no violent crimes, and who were no longer a danger to society, should be released early. It is unclear whether the Greek authorities will now review the files on the amnesties again, and report problems to the ministries of the EU.
The overcrowded prisons are not the only problem with Greek justice. According to media reports, the courts are so overworked that it would take ten years to process all cases on file, even if no new cases were added on top. Several-months-long strikes of judicial officials last year exacerbated the problem. According to media reports, the burden on the courts doubled in 2015 from 380,000 to 700,000 unprocessed cases.
In addition, Greece has far too few specialized lawyers to cope with the tens of thousands of asylum applications in the refugee crisis. Judges for second-instance proceedings are particularly lacking. The EU had promised aid with personnel, but so far little has been achieved. Less than 100 lawyers from the EU have so far been sent to Greece to help with asylum procedures. Several hundred were promised.
|00:00||Concerning this case, immediately after the issue became known,|
|00:08||I pressed for clarification via our liaison officer in Athens.|
|00:13||Subsequently, it is now certain that the suspect in the terrible crime of Freiburg|
|00:19||is identical with the person sentenced for attempted murder in Greece.|
|00:25||Yesterday evening the Greek authorities, on the basis of the fingerprints forwarded by Germany,|
|00:30||identified him without a doubt.|
|00:33||The suspect was convicted of attempted premeditated murder, and robbery,|
|00:39||on May 26, 2013, in Greece, and given a ten-year prison sentence.|
|00:47||On October 30, 2015 he was released on probation, under the condition that for the next five years|
|00:54||he would report once a month to the police station responsible for his place of residence.|
|01:01||As he did not comply with that condition, the Greek authorities issued an arrest warrant|
|01:09||and imposed the serving of the remainder of his sentence.|
|01:13||However, there was only a national search for him since.|
|01:19||Regrettably, the Greek authorities neglected to implement an international search.|
|01:27||Otherwise, the suspect, at a proper [immigration] control by the|
|01:33||German security authorities at different stages, would have raised suspicion.|
|01:37||There were enquiries into several aspects of the data.|
|01:41||This is a very aggravating event, which we will certainly have to discuss with the Greek side.