Supporters of migrant workers' rights in Greece have reacted with disgust to a Greek court's decision to acquit local farmers who admitted shooting 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers in April 2013, four of whom were gravely injured.
The pickers had merely demanded remuneration for six months' unpaid work at a farm in Manolada, in the southern Peloponnese, prior to the attack.
The owner of the farm and head foreman were cleared of all charges, which included human trafficking, while two other farmers were convicted of aggravated assault and illegal use of firearms. Despite receiving combined sentences of over 23 years, both walked free pending appeals.
One man involved was, at the time of the shooting, already awaiting trial for an attack almost a year before, in which an Egyptian worker was jammed in a car window by the head and dragged down a road, the New York Times reported.
The shooting incident had exposed some of the appalling conditions faced by migrant workers in Greece, with many living in squalid conditions with no access to proper hygiene or basic sanitation. This latest ruling therefore appears a major setback for those seeking progress.
"It sends the message that a foreign worker can die like a dog in the orchard," said Vassiliki Katrivanou, an MP with the main opposition left-wing Syriza party. "It leaves room for new victims by closing eyes to the brutal, inhuman and racist character of the exploitation suffered by workers on the land."
Petros Constantinou, co-ordinator of the Greek Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat, released a statement saying: "We call upon unions and human rights movements to react against this unprecedented racist scandal. The hundreds of millions of profit made in the strawberry industry cannot come about by shooting labourers in strawberry fields."