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Greek-Australian Volunteer Held in Greece not Guilty for Arson

Wildfires in Greece
Wildfires in Greece. Credit: Felton Davis CC-BY-2.0 / Flickr

The Greek-Australian volunteer, Theodosis Kakouris, who selflessly risked his life to help during wildfires has been found not guilty of arson eleven months after being held in a Greek prison.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Mr. Kakouris was incarcerated in Korydallos after the August 2021 wildfires in Attica, Greece which he offered to help fight. Still, his altruistic act led to unfavorable consequences for Mr. Kakouris himself.

His act was altruistically not acknowledged because he was kept behind bars over arson allegations for eleven months until July 11th when the Athens Court unanimously found him innocent.

Upon release from prison, the 44-year-old, in reaction to comments and questions about his unfair arrest and detention, told reporters that he’s “not celebrating” and that he’s “bitter and need[s] time to adjust.”

Circumstances surrounding detention of Mr. Kakouris for arson

On August 3rd of last year, Mr. Kakouris stated that he had been watching the Olympics on TV when the program was interrupted by an emergency alert reporting the fire in Varibobi in East Attica.

He immediately got dressed and rushed to the nearest fire-front transporting a horse from the Varibobi Equestrian Club to safety by wrapping his towel around its neck.

According to reports, Mr. Kakouris helped local residents save their homes until the soles of his shoes melted from the high temperature. Upon noticing he was barefoot, one of the residents gave him a pair of boots to wear.

Mr. Kakouris rested on August 4th but returned in the early hours of August 6th to volunteer because the fires were still raging. Unfortunately, however, a car of volunteers roadblocked him and handed him over to police officers without further inquiries.

“I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong,” he said, explaining that there had been a report of a suspect on a motorbike similar to his own.

The witness called to identify him and testified that Mr. Kakouris was not the same man he had seen, nor was his motorbike the same as the one he had observed at the scene.

He was put in custody over the testimony of the main prosecution witness on accusations of starting the Krioneri cemetery fire and two more blazes that devastated the Madri area of ​​Krioneri on August 4th and 6th.

Even though no evidence was identified on his person during his arrest or during further investigation, he was transferred to Korydallos prison, where predominantly foreign prisoners are kept.

Kakouris didn’t leave his cell for the first twenty-one days of his sentence and only went into the yard for the first time afterwards. Two months into his sentence, he started working in the prison canteen.

He revealed that he “tried to fill [his] everyday life, to get a routine so that [he] didn’t think about it and let it get [him] down,” as he “felt enormous bitterness” whenever he did think about his unjust imprisonment.

Testimonies maintaining innocence of Greek-Australian volunteer

Another volunteer reported that there were “a lot of flare-ups and he would show up very often after each flare-up,” but she never saw Mr. Kakouris set a fire. She claimed that new fires broke out along the paths Mr. Kakouris took.

A resident insisted that “he put his heart and soul into helping put out the fire. I rule out a man who helped so much to have any involvement in causing fires.”

Another resident of Varibobi, a lawyer by profession, said of Mr. Kakouris: “With his help, we saved four of the five houses [on] the block.” He had taken videos and photos showing Mr. Kakouris volunteering.

The Greek Fire Department notified the Prosecutor’s Office that the fire in Varibobi started from a high-voltage pillar, citing “faulty control and maintenance” as the cause.

It wasn’t until Kakouris’ attorneys Nikolaos Loukopoulos and Thrasyvoulos Kontaxis presented the full report of hard evidence from the Fire Department that he was unanimously found not guilty by three judges.

Upon his release, Kakouris said that “the chief justice spoke of a miscarriage of justice and wished [him] to continue helping […and] to be [himself].”

“I do not know if I can do that,” said Kakouris, and “I don’t want to be somewhere with a lot of people.”

Kakouris admitted that while he is able to discuss the situation, he’s uncertain if this actually helps or causes him to somehow remain “stuck” in the situation. He maintained that he fought for his freedom for so long, and, while he has finally obtained it, he still has a long way to go to recover from unnecessary imprisonment.

“I won’t go near a fire again. Only if it erupted near me, at 50 or 100 meters, would I go to help,” he added.

It should be noted that all evidence pointed to the Greek-Australian volunteer’s positive involvement during the Varibobi wildfires of August 2021. He did, as formerly mentioned, risk his very own life to rescue residents and local wildlife.

Yet, he was wrongfully implicated in a life-altering scenario. Kakouris was charged with arson—with intent—on three counts and remained in confinement—despite a dearth of evidence for his conviction—for eleven months until he was finally acquitted.

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