Statewatch article: RefNo# 28391
Greece/Italy: EAW for petty drugs offence
Statewatch Supplement; November 2008
Luca Zanotti, an Italian student who was caught with 21.95g of hashish in his car by the Greek traffic police in Kalamata while on holiday with his friend, Davide D’Orsi, in September 2005, was arrested on 16 September and extradited to Greece. A Corte di Cassazione (Italy’s highest appeal court) ruling on 21 August that rejected his appeal and instructed Italy to execute the European arrest warrant issued against him by Greek judicial authorities. For their holiday stash, Zanotti and D’Orsi face possible charges of: international drug trafficking for the purpose of dealing; transporting drugs for the purpose of dealing; possession of drugs for the purpose of dealing; and consumption of drugs. In April 2008, the Kalamata public prosecutor issued the European arrest warrants, which stated that in Greece, the offence of international trafficking in drugs for the purpose of dealing entails a minimum custodial sentence of ten years.

In fact, Greek law does not establish a clear distinction between possession for personal use and for drug dealing. Previous appeals filed before the Bologna court of appeal surprisingly resulted in different outcomes for the two defendants: Zanotti’s resulted in a ruling ordering compliance with the arrest warrant, but a fortnight later, Davide D’Orsi appeal ended with the court rejecting the arrest warrant against him, on the grounds that the charges were not justified.

After they were caught on the fourth day of their holiday, Zanotti and D’Orsi spent four days in prison before they were released on bail (euro 2,500) and returned to Italy. They missed hearings in January and November 2007, mistakenly believing that their lawyer could represent them without their being present. The warrant envisages Zanotti being held in custody in Greece (he is currently in Napflios prison, not far from Athens) until his trial, and the Corte di Cassazione ruling stated that he would be handed to Greek authorities on condition that “he would serve the sentence that may be passed against him in an Italian prison”.

Considering that under both Italian and Greek law the facts may be construed as an offence carrying at least 12 months in prison (although this would not generally be the case in Italy, particularly in the case of a first offence), that under the European Union’s institutional framework member’s states’ legal orders can no longer be treated as “foreign”, the court of appeal’s decision that Italy must comply with the arrest warrant is deemed to be correct.

Zanotti received bi-partisan support from his local council and politicians from the region, with Sergio Pizzolante of the centre-right Partito della Libertà arguing that:

I find it absurd that a 25-year-old lad can be arrested for a crime that would not be [treated as] such in Italy.

However, as stated by the Corte di Cassazione:

the listing of the criminal conducts...details the crimes committed in Greece. Crimes which do not pose the issue of verifying double indictability” and which fall under the category of conducts for which a “handover is obligatory”.

The latest news from Greece is that Zanotti is well, the trial has been scheduled for 21 October 2008, and Zanotti’s Greek lawyer, Georgios Assimakis, believes that “the Greek authorities do not believe that Luca is a trafficker”, which could lead to a shorter sentence.

Davide D’Orsi’s successful appeal against the execution of the European arrest warrant “cannot have any effect on Zanotti’s position”. Nonetheless, it seems that the two cases, which are almost identical, are influencing each other, as the Corte di Cassazione followed its ruling against Zanotti on 21 August by accepting an appeal against the court of appeal’s decision filed by the Bologna prosecutor’s office, quashing the court of appeal’s ruling that D’Orsi should not be extradited and ordering that the appeal be heard again in Bologna.

ANSA, 29.8.08; Notiziario ADUC, 29.8.08; Il Resto del Carlino, 18, 19.9.08; La Stampa, 23.8.08; La Voce, 29.6.08; Newsrimini.it, 22.8.08; Repubblica, 17.9.08; for news and updates, see the “Aiutiamo Luca e Davide” blog at: http://aiutiamolucaedavide.blogspot.com; and www.fuoriluogo.it. The Corte di Cassazione ruling (full-text) is available at:
http://legale.antiproibizionisti.it/documenti/cassazione_34295-20080821.pdf

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