PATRAS, Greece – A Greek court prosecutor is appealing lenient sentences for six men convicted in the killing of an American tourist and will seek murder charges after they were found guilty on of assault.
The verdict in the July, 2017 death of 22-year-old Bakari Henderson who was beaten to death on the notorious Greek island of Zakynthos, where violence frequently runs wild in the summer with foreign hooligans, shocked his family who said it didn’t bring justice or closure.
Two of three others also charged had already fled back to Serbia after being released. The lawyers for Henderson’s family also for the sentences for those convicted to be appealed which is allowable under Greek law where a prosecutor can return a case to court.
Deputy Appeals Court Prosecutor Giorgos Bisbikis will seek a tougher penalty after the six convicted were given prison terms ranging from 5 to 15 years while the other three were freed after being convicted of assault even though Henderson died within 30 seconds of a savage gang beating on the street.
Henderson’s parents were in the courtroom as the sentences were handed down. His mother Jill Henderson said ahead of the court session that she and her husband Phil were, “just hopeful that justice will be served, and that all defendants will get life sentences.”
After the sentencing, Phil Henderson told CBS News outside the court that he, “can’t understand, a man’s life here in Greece doesn’t mean anything.”
“You should not be able to chase a man down and beat him to death and not go to jail,” his wife added, before breaking down in tears.
There were nine defendants on trial – seven Serbs, one Greek and a Brit of Serbian origin who got the most severe sentence. One of the Serbs was sentenced to 10 years, three got seven years and another five years, all for lesser assault charges.
CBS said the defendants were seen smiling, hugging and exchanging high-fives in court after the verdicts were read.
Bakari, a 22-year-old recent business graduate from the University of Arizona, was in Greece a working holiday with friends. He was planning to shoot promotional video for his own line of apparel.
While in a bar on the island he ran into the defendants. A Serbian woman told investigators that when she posed for a selfie with the American, a man nearby said, “There are a lot of Serbs in the bar. Why are you talking to a black guy?”
She said the man then smacked Henderson in the face, and Henderson hit him back before he was chased by the pack before being caught and beaten, which was captured in video.
“Losing our beloved Bakari in such a brutal way has been living hell,” said his mother, the Austin Statesman reported in Texas where he went to university. “We were hoping and praying that justice would be served with the nine defendants being sentenced to life in prison. However, we feel the Greek judicial system failed us when they reduced the charges.”
She said she and her husband were especially “disappointed that the two Serbians who fled back to Serbia were allowed to go free and the Greek bartender will be released from prison.”
“Under any civilized legal system, this was and is a homicide,” the Hendersons’ lawyers, Earl S. Ward and Jonathan S. Abady, said in a joint statement.
“If Bakari Henderson were attacked by a mob and survived, that would have been an assault. But he didn’t survive. He was murdered. Moreover, the brutal killing was caught on video for the entire world to see.”
Jill Henderson said she felt the defendants did not show any remorse during the trial proceeding, the paper reported.
“It’s extremely difficult to forgive people who, first of all, don’t ask for forgiveness, don’t feel like they need your forgiveness and seem totally insensitive to what has happened in your life,” she said. “They don’t even make eye contact with you, so it’s hurtful. I think they should have time in jail to think about it.”