By Angelos Anastasiou
Former interior minister Dinos Michaelides’ trial in Athens was adjourned for the fifth time yesterday, following a tumultuous session with a generous dose of tension and objections that included the expulsion of a lawyer from the courtroom and the replacement of another by the court.
The trial, that will resume on Tuesday, July 15, started in May but has yet to see a single witness called to testify.
A few weeks ago, the Greek Bar Association warned its members not to take part in this trial, citing the presiding judge’s persistence to repeatedly adjourn the case.
As a result, despite attending the trial, the defendants’ lawyers refused to take part in the case, in compliance with the Bar Association’s directive. In response, the court took it upon itself to replace them with public defenders.
Once yesterday’s session got underway, the court-appointed defence lawyer, Yiorgos Sotiropoulos, said he was unable to dissent to his association’s decision, and resigned.
This caused the judge’s irritation and after a half-hour recess, she appointed legal aid counsellor Angelos Tsasis to represent Michalis Michaelides, Dinos’ son, also a defendant in the case.
Tsasis expressed reservations on his ability to study the mass of litigation in order to properly defend Michalis Michaelides.
The judge ruled that the four days to the new trial date are sufficient, and adjourned the trial until Tuesday.
Despite Dinos Michaelides also being appointed a new defence lawyer by the court – Elias Broumas – the former interior minister claimed that the lawyers “have never visited me in jail to discuss the case.”
Dinos and Michalis Michaelides are facing charges of receiving kickbacks and money laundering in relation to the purchase of TOR-M1 missiles by Greece during Akis Tsohatzopoulos’ term as Greek Defence minister.
The two defendants noted that they are the most eager for the trial to be over as “we go back to jail every time it gets adjourned, when everyone else goes home.” They also insist on being represented by the lawyers they chose in the first place.
Following Thursday’s adjournment, the defence lawyers tried to convince Tsasis to also decline to represent Michalis Michaelides.
Tsasis was annoyed by his colleagues’ pressure and told his client that it is in his best interest for the trial to be conducted.
“If you are innocent, as you claim, I will do everything to prove your innocence and get you out of jail as soon as possible,” he said.
Michaelides thanked Tsasis but repeated that he also wanted the trial to go ahead as soon as possible but with his own lawyers.
The prosecution charged that the defence’s stalling tactics are nothing new, and is often employed when a continuance is sought in order to have a new court convened.
“It is a familiar tactic employed to change the court’s seat,” one lawyer said.
Meanwhile, tension arose when lawyer Themis Sofos – representing Syrian arms dealer Fouad Al Zayad – addressed the court with a request to sit in on the trial on behalf of his client.
“But during the last session you also announced your abstention, therefore you are not part of the trial,” the judge replied. “Do you now rescind your abstention?”
“My presence here only serves to represent my client,” Sofos argued.
“Therefore you have altered your previous stance of abstaining?” the judge insisted.
This conversational pattern continued, much to the seat’s annoyance, and the judge finally ended it by saying “we can’t play word games here.” She called a new recess, and 20 minutes later ordered the bailiffs to expel Sofos from the courtroom.