The supreme court has rejected an application by disgraced former deputy attorney-general Rikkos Erotokritou for release from jail on the grounds of a provision in the criminal code that can grant court officials immunity from prosecution.
Erotokritou filed the petition for a writ of habeas corpus following his conviction in February to three-and-a-half years in jail for conspiring to subvert the course of justice and bribery while serving as deputy attorney-general in 2013.
A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful.
Erotokritou based his petition on a provision in the criminal law relating to the legal immunity of judicial officers.
The provision in question states that apart from the cases where the code clearly states the opposite, judicial officers are legally immune for acts or omissions carried out during the execution of their duties, even if the action exceeded their authority or even if there was a legal obligation to carry out the action that had been omitted.
The crimes for which Erotokritou was found guilty were carried out while he was deputy attorney-general and his argument is that the post fulfils the criteria of ‘judicial officer’ and therefore exempts him from criminal prosecution.
However, the supreme court said it considered Erotokritou’s detention lawful since it was based on the decision of the criminal court, whose actions were within its authority and jurisdiction.
“The authority for issuing a writ of habeas corpus is exercised only in the cases where illegal detention or imprisonment is proven,” the court said. “The scope and jurisdiction of the writ is not unlimited.”
The supreme court said Erotokritou was convicted and was doing prison time imposed by a court in whose jurisdiction such cases fall.
“The applicant’s release goes through the reversal of the criminal court’s conviction, which continues to stand and is strong, a fact that by itself, according to the binding case law of the (supreme court) plenum, seals the fate of the application since there is no room for issuing a preferential writ of habeas corpus to test the legality of the decision in question,” the supreme court said.
The court added that the legality of the conviction and the sentence could be effectively disputed through an appeal, a right the applicant had already exercised before filing the current motion.
“The simultaneous adoption of two legal remedies, the appeal and the application, to achieve the same objective, that is the release of the applicant, constitutes an abuse of procedure, rendering the application dismissible for this reason also.”