The Juvenile Court of Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos handed down the sentences late on Tuesday (March 9) after a six-hour session, the local bar association told AFP.
According to the aid organization Legal Center, the two youths, A.A. and M.H., were found guilty of arson and will likely spend their terms in Avlona prison for minors and young adults on the Greek mainland Lesvos.
Both defendants were 17 at the time of the fire and claimed that they had nothing to do with it. They said they were not at the camp when the fire broke out, according to the newspaper Ekathimerini.
A 42-year-old Afghan man who arrived on Lesbos in December 2019 had testified to police that the fire had been started by a group of five people, who were arrested one week after the fire. Police identified another suspect from a video posted on Facebook, Ekathimerini reports.
Legal Centre Lesvos, which represented the defendants at the trial, said there had been a “lack of credible evidence” presented and that they would work to overturn the verdict on appeal.
“While we are disappointed with today’s result, things could have been much worse for the two young men,” the group said in a statement. “The arson conviction alone could have carried a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.”
Six Afghans Accused of Arson
A.A. and M.H. were unaccompanied minors when they arrived in Greece. They were 17 at the time of the arrest, but recently turned 18.
Along with four other young men from Afghanistan, who remain detained and await trial, they had been accused of arson with risk to human life and membership in a criminal group.
The court in Lesbos ruled that while A.A. and M.H. were guilty of arson, but they were not guilty of belonging to a criminal group.
Two consecutive fires completely destroyed the Moria camp after riots had erupted there on September 8. At the time, roughly 13,000 refugees and migrants were living there in notoriously squalid conditions.
After the blaze, thousands of people from Afghanistan, Syria, and various African countries were left without shelter or sanitation, among them families with young children, pregnant women, and older people. They were left sleeping on roadsides for days until another tent camp could be erected.
Thousands of residents fled from the camp, but were stopped by police vehicles. Police were guarding most on a nearby highway. There is no suggestion of injuries or casualties.
“The whole camp is on fire. Everything is burning. People are escaping. Their homes in Moria are gone,” said local refugee support group Stand By Me Levsos said.
“The fire spread inside and outside the camp and has destroyed it,” Stratos Kytelis, mayor of the island town of Mylinene, told local radio.
“It is a complicated situation because some of those who are outside will include people who are positive [for coronavirus],” he added.
A Somali refugee residing in Moria tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this week, triggering a host of lockdown measures in a bid to contain the outbreak.
At least 35 people at the camp had tested positive for COVID-19.