Greek authorities were scrambling this week to locate roughly 10,000 paroled convicts and suspects released from pre-trial remand in the country but who’ve subsequently “disappeared.”
The sudden focus on the whereabouts of this large group of paroled individuals comes after last week’s high-profile arrest of a man suspected of at least a half dozen attempted sexual assaults in central Athens – all coming after he was paroled, under specific conditions, from pre-trial detention.
Conditions set by judicial officials in Greece for such a release usually include a certain number of appearances at specific police precincts and the listing of a permanent residence.
According to reports, out of roughly 45,000 paroled convicts and previously detained defendants awaiting trial in the country, 20 to 30 percent never fulfill the conditions for release. Failure to issue timely arrest warrants for these individuals, the majority of whom are foreign nationals, compounds the problem.
Sources that spoke with the Athens daily “Ta Nea” said the current system to monitor whether conditions are being met is “swamped”. Another parameter, according to sources, is a lack of personnel at the precinct level and reduced judicial system staff – the latter by up to 40 percent compared to previous years.
38,000 warrants issued annually
On a yearly basis the Greek Police force is forwarded roughly 38,000 arrest warrants, of which approximately 18,000 are issued for the greater Athens-Piraeus area and 3,500 in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
It was the failure, by all accounts, to issue such an arrest warrant that allowed the suspect in the sex assault attempts, identified as a 23-year-old Syrian national with a criminal record, to “fall through the cracks” of the justice system.
He was previously arrested and charged in July 2022 with the attempted rape of a 76-year-old woman at an Athens-area beach. His “rap sheet” also included no less than six previous convictions for thefts.
He was released after a year in pre-trial lockup from a prison in northern Greece after the maximum period of incarceration was reached for the specific offense.
The latter development also brought into focus, yet again, the sluggish operation of Greek criminal courts.
The suspect disappeared without ever reporting to a migrants/refugee center north of Athens, where he was ordered to reside. He also never showed up at a specific police precinct where he was ordered to report to three times a month. The man was eventually arrested after a manhunt in central Athens that relied on video footage from at least three attacks.
High-ranking police officials that spoke with “Ta Nea” said that precincts in the greater Athens area are assigned between 200 to 1,400 individuals who must report there on a monthly basis. As expected the precincts in central Athens (Omonia, Kypseli and Aghios Panteleimonos) bear the brunt of this process.