Greek man who shot at refugees accused of attempted murder

Man, 55, on Lesbos island says he believed men he shot at had trespassed on his property and claims he acted in defence.

Migrants wearing protective face masks make their way in a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants next to the Moria camp, during a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus diseas
Refugees wearing protective face masks make their way to a makeshift camp next to Moria during a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the island of Lesbos [File: Elias Marcou/Reuters]

Lesbos, Greece – A 55-year-old Greek man accused of attempting to murder two refugees has appeared in court, reportedly telling prosecutors he acted in defence of his property.

He is charged with violating gun laws and the attempted murder of the refugees who live in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island, after he shot at a group of four Moria residents, on April 22.

Originally from the town of Afalonas, around 4km (2.5 miles) from Moria, the man was welcomed by dozens of supporters as he arrived at court in Mytilene on Monday – despite coronavirus lockdown restrictions which limit public gatherings to 10 people or less in Greece.

The man claims the four refugees trespassed on his land. None of the bullets hit the refugees, but two had to be hospitalised to remove shrapnel embedded in their backs from the gunshot.

The accused man, a carpenter, told the court that animals had recently been stolen from his land and he believed that the people he shot at were the trespassers.

He offered to apologise to the two men who were hospitalised.

He was released on a 1,000-euro ($1,084) bail and will appear before a judge at a later date. His lawyer stressed his “previously honourable life”.

According to testimony shared in local media, the refugees had simply been walking along the road when they were shot at.

The day after the man’s arrest, members of the local community held a rally supporting him.

Tensions over the future of the Moria refugee camp have been simmering on the island for months.

An increase of refugee arrivals to Lesbos at the beginning of March led to a wave of vigilante violence directed at refugees, NGO workers and journalists.

There have been repeated calls to evacuate the camp, where living conditions continue to deteriorate.

More than 18,200 people live in the space which was designed for 2,757, according to official government data.

A planned evacuation of around 1,500 vulnerable people due to take place last weekend because of coronavirus fears was cancelled.

Kostas Moutzouris, the North Aegean regional governor, posted on social media that he was disappointed by the move, noting that it had been “widely advertised”.

A group of 127 people who had arrived on the shores of Lesbos more than a month ago were finally transferred on Sunday to the camp, having been living outside with few provisions.

In some parts of the camp, there are 210 people per toilet and more than 630 per shower, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Source: Al Jazeera