Christiana Stilianidou
Two lawyers among those arrested on December 6, 2020
08 • 12 • 2020

On December 6, 2020, the police made several hundred arrests and detentions. Among them were two lawyers. Their arrest and detention despite the disclosure of their status was, according to the Athens Bar Association, a violation of the essence of the legal profession and a blow to the rule of law.

In Athens, on Sunday, December 6, 2020, a ban on public assembly was in place, ostensibly to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and prevent the large public gatherings that usually occur every year on this date in memory of a teenager shot and killed by police in 2008. Despite the ban, police clashed with citizens and, with the declared aim of enforcing the  measures to deal with the pandemic the police made several hundred arrests and detentions. Complaints of repression and police arbitrariness followed (see more on the issue here).

Among those arrested and taken to the police headquarters in Athens for violations of article 285  of the Penal Code were two lawyers, despite the fact that they had disclosed this status to the authorities. Their arrest and detention was met with outrage as it was considered illegal (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). A press release from the Athens Bar Association stated that, “This unprecedented action by the police authorities, which prevented our colleagues from exercising their defensive duty, violates the essence of the legal profession and seriously affects the core of the rule of law”.

Circular 2/2021 issued by the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court approximately one month after the incident also confirmed that lawyers are not subject to the provisions of the spontaneous procedure and therefore, following their arrest and the verification of their identity, are not to be detained.

It is worth noting that according to a press release from the two lawyers, the cases that had been formed against dozens of the detainees (including the lawyers themselves) were not pursued by the prosecutor. They believe that this was because there was no legitimate basis for the ban placed on public assembly on 6.12.2020, especially since no coronavirus cases were found among those arrested, and the detainees were not wearing masks.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

In a state governed by the rule of law, lawyers are entitled to the respect and honor due to their function from any persons acting within the framework of the Public Administration.

In the event that a lawyer is spontaneously arrested, they are not to be detained, but should be brought straight to the relevant public prosecutor.

In this case, however, two lawyers appear to have been arrested in the course of their duties and detained, despite the fact that they had disclosed their identities and status.

Christiana Stilianidou
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