It was all over the news, in July 2018: the British couple who were thrown in a greek jail and accused of spying, after photographing boats while on holiday in Greece, on the island of Kos.
These types of cases become extremely popular with the press, especially in the tourists’ country of origin. They depict unfortunate tourists who were thrown into “3rd-world-type jail cells” over a “non-crime” or over a “prank gone bad”. The description of the whole incident is dramatic, and raises a lot of issues about possible human rights violations in Greece.
I consulted with a greek lawyer, who told me that many these stories are taken out of proportion: the notion of a “police-state” which “throws people into custody for no reason” is misleading. On the other hand, foreign tourists NEED to take extra care in abiding by the laws of the country, in the same manner that locals would do. Therefore, they should be advised to consult with their Embassy or Consulate, and obtain ground information (based on past experience) about what is or is not legal in Greece, which may differ from the corresponding situation in their home country.
As a general rule, they need to be aware of the following:
If local police suspect them for a crime that has been committed, they can arrest them on the sport and bring them into custody (even handcuffed, especially if there is a possibility that they might run away)
Once there, they should notify their relatives, as well as their local Embassy if need be, who may either provide them with a list of local lawyers, or pass on messages from their family, or raise their concerns about their case with the Greek authorities
They will be taken to the local police station, and placed in a temporary detention cell, until such time their details are recorded into file, and they are taken in from of a public prosecutor, who will inform them about the accusations they are facing. They should also instruct a lawyer to represent them throughout the whole incident, and consult with the lawyer about their own line of defence
The detention cells are, usually, not very convenient places. Beds and mattresses may be lacking in terms of proper cleaning, and the surrounding area may not offer a hotel’s facilities. However, toilets are usually clean and food is served regularly
A hearing (usually within the same or the following day) will be arranged. A judge will hear their lawyer who should diligently defend them. Another court hearing date in the future may be arranged, and (until that time) the judge will inform them about whether they are free to go or should remain into custody (depending on the crime’s circumstances)
In most cases (depending on the crime), either charges will be dropped (especially if the whole case is a misunderstanding) or they will be declared innocent at the court hearing, or a suspended sentence will be given, or the sentence may be translated into a monetary buy-out equivalent. In any case, whatever the sentence, they also have the right to an appeal. If the crime is not very grave, the sentence is suspended until the Court of Appeals hearing, which means that they are free to go until that time. Their lawyer will arrange all formalities.
Therefore, apart from the fact that foreign tourists are not well accustomed with the whole legal system proceedings, they should remain calm, they should vigorously proclaim their innocence, they should take action to defend themselves, and they should seek qualified legal and personal assistance immediately.