Afghan refugee awarded thousands in damages after wrongful imprisonment in Greece

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An Afghan refugee who spent nearly three years in prison after being wrongfully accused of trafficking migrants was awarded thousands of euros in damages, his lawyers said on Tuesday.

Akif Rasuli, 25, was arrested after arriving in Greece in 2020 and accused of having piloted a dinghy that washed up off the island of Lesbos, not far from the Turkish coast.

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“The... Court agreed that Mr. Rasuli should be compensated for the time he stayed in prison unjustly,” said his lawyers from the NGO Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL).

He was awarded 15,920 euros ($17,000) in damages, the lawyers added.

Rasuli had already been acquitted by the Lesbos appeals court in December 2022, along with another Afghan refugee who was accused of the same crimes and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

“I suffered so much in prison for a crime I haven’t committed. Money will never give me back the time that has been taken from me,” Rasuli said as he left court, as quoted by LCL.

A Greek law from 2014 states that any migrant accused of piloting a boat carrying refugees faces a minimum 10-year prison sentence, even if it is proven that they are not a people smuggler and were not paid to make the crossing.

“It should not be forgotten that this case is only one of thousands, as people charged or convicted of smuggling make up the second largest prison population in Greece, and most will never be compensated for this time in prison, even if eventually acquitted”, said LCL.

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