Andrew Symeou cleared over death on Zakynthos
Twenty-two year old Andrew Symeou, from Enfield, was today acquitted of the manslaughter of Jonathan Hiles who tragically died on the island of Zante in 2007. In a dramatic turn of events the Prosecutor himself recommended that Andrew should be acquitted and today the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Following his extradition in July 2009, Andrew spent over 10 months in appalling Greek prison conditions and has since been unable to return home to the UK.
Jago Russell, Chief Executive of Fair Trials International, said:
“Andrew Symeou is an innocent man, who was condemned by failures in Europe’s justice systems to a four year nightmare. While his friends were free to start their adult lives, Andrew was being dragged before the British courts, shipped off to a foreign land and held behind bars in one of Europe’s worst prisons. As the Symeou’s finally return home to start picking up the pieces, politicians in London and Brussels, with the power to build a better justice system in Europe, must not forget the ordeal this family has suffered.”
Andrew Symeou, Fair Trials International client, said:
“There are no winners or losers, only pursuit of the truth. Today’s verdict has only stopped further injustice and a possible gross miscarriage of justice. I was not involved in any way in the death of Jonathan Hiles and the court agrees. I can finally return home and begin building my life again.”
Andrew was extradited to Greece under Europe’s fast-track extradition regime (the European Arrest Warrant), despite compelling evidence of mistaken identity and evidence that the charges were based on statements extracted by Greek police through the violent intimidation of witnesses, who later retracted their statements. Andrew was detained for almost a year in filthy, overcrowded prison conditions alongside convicted murderers and rapists, and was forced to spend his 21st Birthday behind bars. He was finally released on bail but had to remain in Greece to await trial, enduring continuous delays before the trial finally commenced in March 2011; four years after the events in question. Fair Trials International has supported Andrew’s family throughout their ordeal and challenged Andrew’s treatment at the European Court of Human Rights.
- Fair Trials International is a human rights charity which provides assistance to people arrested in a country other than their own and campaigns for reform to fight the underlying causes of injustice in cross-border cases.
- Fair Trials International is available to comment. Please contact Shona Elliott at Fair Trials International on 020 7822 2378 or 07950849851
- Full background to Andrew Symeou’s case
In July 2007, Andrew Symeou went on holiday with friends to Zante, Greece. While Andrew was staying in Zante another young British man, Jonathan Hiles, fell off an unguarded stage platform in a night-club, became unconscious and died two days later from his head injury. Andrew is accused of having struck Mr Hiles causing him to fall. However, witnesses have confirmed Andrew was not in the club at the time.
- Mistreatment of witnesses:
Witnesses interviewed have reported that they were subjected to brutal treatment by the Greek police, who held them for 8 hours without food or water. While in custody they were beaten, punched, slapped and threatened by officers until they gave statements implicating Andrew in Mr Hiles’ death. They immediately retracted the statements on their release. There is strong evidence that witness statements were manufactured by Zante police. The same police officers were reported taking statements in two different places at the same time with witnesses stating word-for-word identical statements. CCTV footage showing those involved in the incident leaving the nightclub has been deleted and is not available to use in Andrew’s defence.
Despite the serious flaws with the case against Andrew, the High Court decided on 1 May 2009, that he should be extradited to Greece to face trial under a European Arrest Warrant. Andrew Symeou was extradited to Greece on 23 July 2009.
- The European Arrest Warrant:
The European Arrest Warrant is a fast-track system for surrendering people from one European country to another to face trial or serve a prison sentence. It has removed many of the traditional safeguards in the extradition process. If a court in one country demands a person’s arrest and extradition, courts and police in other countries must act on it. In 2009, this fast track extradition system was used to extradite over 4000 people across the EU (700 people from the UK alone). Fair Trials International has serious concerns about Europe’s fast-track system for extradition and defence rights across the EU. Through our Justice in Europe campaign Fair Trials International has campaigned for a fairer system of extradition and have through our casework and lobbying activities raised considerable awareness.
- Detention and Denial of Bail:
Andrew spent 10 months in appalling prison conditions in Greece and was denied bail on the basis that he is not a Greek resident. A trial date was set for 4 June 2010 after Andrew had spent nearly a year in prison, 6 months of which were spent in the infamous high security Korydallos prison. He was only granted bail in June 2010, after his trial was adjourned due to the Prosecution’s failure to ensure their witnesses had received the court summons. Last week the Court in Patras, decided to delay the first hearing of Andrew’s trial until the 10th March, after the victim’s lawyer requested more time.