ATHENS – In the summer of 2017, Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old American student, was beaten to death on the Greek resort island of Zakynthos. The men convicted in Mr. Henderson’s case were initially charged with murder, but a court found them guilty of assault and most have served their sentences and been released.
On Wednesday, a court began seriously rehearing the case, again on murder charges, after the defense requested an adjournment on Monday. The retrial came after a prosecutor found the assault charges and subsequent sentences too lenient.
“We are starting from scratch, a blank board,” said Christos Kaklamanis, the attorney representing the family. “They all face murder charges.”
This type of retrial is very rare. The concept of double jeopardy is applicable in Greece, but it is attached only if the judgment is final. Since the original decision has been appealed by the prosecutor, the decision is not final and there may be a new trial with the same original charge.
The fatal attack, after an argument at a bar, make international headlinesand Mr. Henderson’s family returned to Greece for a retrial.
Postponed several times because of the coronavirus pandemic and regulatory obstacles, the new test was finally conducted in the western Greek city of Patras, on Wednesday. The defendants, five Serbian nationals, one British citizen of Bosnian descent and one Greek citizen, were released in the first trial after being convicted of a simple assault charge and served time in pre-trial detention. It is not clear how many of the men will appear at the retrial as some have returned to their home countries.
Mr. Henderson, a college graduate from Austin, Texas, was traveling in Greece with friends and did a photo session for the opening of a clothing store at the time of the attack, in July 2017.
Video from security camera at the Laganas party resort in Zakynthos shows a barbaric attack. A crowd can be seen chasing Mr Henderson down a street before hurling him into a parked car and punching him repeatedly. A Greek police spokesman at the time said Mr Henderson was dead within 30 seconds.
Eyewitness testimony suggests the attack may have been racially motivated. A female bartender told investigators that as she took a selfie with Mr Henderson, who is black, a man standing nearby commented: “There are a lot of Serbs in the bar. Why are you talking to a black guy? ”
She said the man then punched Mr Henderson, who responded by hitting him on the head with a beer bottle. That exchange was also recorded on video inside the bar.
Of the nine men initially charged in the beating, six were jailed. The British received the longest sentence: 15 years in prison. Five of the Serbian suspects were sentenced to between five and 10 years but were later released (under Greece’s penal code and amnesty system, the actual time in prison is often less than half the number of sentences handed down by the court). Now seven of the men face the original murder charge again.
Mr. Henderson’s family wants the attackers to receive the maximum penalty for murder, a life sentence, even though in practice that means 20 years in prison.
“After being slapped in the face, Bakari was defending herself during an incident that started one-on-one and stopped when they were out,” Jill Henderson, Bakari’s mother, said in an email.
“So letting the mob chase Bakari down,” she wrote, “beat him to death, and leave him in the street to die is not a fight but a carnage, it is behavior.” inhuman and barbaric.”
Mrs. Henderson, who founded a foundation from that to provide support to the families during the funeral, adding, “Justice will be brought when all defendants charged with attempted murder, are appropriately convicted and extradited back to Greece.” to serve their full sentence.”
To ensure stricter terms, the prosecution must convince the court that the attackers intended to kill Mr. Kaklamanis, the family attorney, said if the retrial produced assault convictions again, some convicts could spend little or no extra time in jail.
Assault sentences in Greece range from 5 to 15 years, although the length of time served is usually much less.
Defense attorneys insist Mr Henderson’s death was tragic but not intentional. Agamemnon Tatsis, an attorney for two of the Serbs, including the one who threw the first punch, said his client did not deserve additional sentences. “They paid for what they did,” he said. And he said that Henderson provoked the attack by using a beer bottle in response to the initial blow.
Athanassios Tartis, the British lawyer, said his client “felt the weight” of his part in the attack but that the fatal blows came from others.
Violent fights are not uncommon in Laganas, a resort that attracts young tourists with its cheap alcohol and often boisterous gatherings. Even so, deaths are uncommon. A British man was stabbed to death in Laganas in 2011, shocking the online community.
In recent years, Greek authorities have sought to crack down on alcoholic fuel violations in Laganas, while trying to maintain the foreign tourism on which the local economy depends. into the. Last summer, authorities introduced 24-hour police patrols and restricted traffic on a central road in Laganas after a series of violent scuffles in the area.
Ms. Henderson said she hoped the retrial would bring the family to a close. She said: “The past five years have been exhausting and sometimes overwhelming because it feels like a long dark cloud has enveloped us. “The defendants showed no ownership or remorse as their actions added salt to our open wounds.”