The Justice for Mark and Andreas Campaign is fighting for the release from prison of Mark and Andreas Marku, two young Albanian men who have been sentenced to 18 years in a Greek prison for a string of armed robberies which they did not commit.
Mark is married to an Irish woman Julie (O’reilly) Marku who is leading the campaign along with other members of her family. Mark and Julie met on the Greek island of Crete, where Mark lived with his family. They decided to move back to Ireland and open a crèche. Mark suffered from homesickness and found it difficult to get work. He would often travel back to Crete to visit his family, and would often be offered work on building sites by his brother.
During one trip in September 2010 Mark, Andreas and a group of other Albanian men were arrested and charged with a string of armed robberies and car thefts. While in police custody, Mark and the other men were beaten and thasered to force a confession out of them. In January 2012 they were sentenced to prison with Mark receiving a sentence of 18 years.
A Trial of Purpose
The string of armed robberies of jewellery shops on the island of Crete had put pressure on the Cretan police force and authorities to act so that would be seen to have taken action. They rounded up the group of Albanian men and decided to charge them with the crimes. Mark’s lawyer said it was a ‘trial of purpose’, the trial wasn’t about finding out who committed the robberies but rather to restore faith in the authorities.
The conduct of the trial was called into question by Mark’s lawyer, Leonidas Pegiadas, who called it an ‘absolute scandal’ and the behaviour of the prosecutor as ‘disgraceful’. The pressure of public opinion to find the Albanians guilty and the need for the police force to be seen to be effective made a mockery of the idea these men would have a fair trial. Pegiadas commented further saying: “during the process I realised that Mark’s guilt has been already decided by the court without taking into consideration our allegations and the facts of this case.”
Irish state documentation dismissed as forgeries
Mark had a huge amount of evidence which showed he did not commit the crimes. Indeed, he could prove that he was in Ireland at the time that the majority of the crimes took place. Mark had presented his passport stamps which showed that he had been in Ireland at the time of some robberies. He presented a document from the department of Social Welfare that showed he had signed a document in Ireland on another date. An estate agent who Mark and Julie rented a house from signed a legal affidavit to say that his records showed he had shown Mark and Julie a house on another date. Mark worked in a hotel for a period, he presented his payslip which shows he was working there while some crimes took place.
All of this evidence was dismissed by the court as forgeries. This includes the stamps on Mark’s passport from the Irish state which show when he entered and left Ireland. This evidence proves Mark’s innocence, yet was dismissed out of hand by the court.
Despite the Greek court calling into question the authenticity of state documents the Irish government has yet to provide any assist of substance to the Marku family.
There is a large Albanian community in Greece and Crete. This has led to a growth in anti-Albanian racism. When Julie married Mark she too began to be subjected to racism for being the wife of an Albanian. This was one of the factors which led them to move to Ireland.
This racism was a factor in the court case. The police and courts used this public hostility against Albanians to conduct an unfair trial thinking that no one would be bothered about a few Albanians who were sent to prison.
The Socialist Party fully supports the Justice for Mark and Andreas Campaign. We call on the Irish state to demand of the Greek government an explanation as to why Irish documents were called forgeries, demand that the documents are presented to a court and authenticated so that Mark and the other men can be released.
Find out more about the campaign run by family members to free Mark & Andreas, and sign the petition in support of their cause here.