There are several different versions of the story, and I only want to tell the truth about what happened to me in Athens. So, before I start, I want to state the facts of what happened:
- On 1st August 2019, I went to the Acropolis temple with my boyfriend and his sister as we took pictures, I was grabbed by a woman and pushed out of the site. I was not once asked to leave or given any warning.
- There was absolutely nothing wrong with my dress, I was arrested because a false accusation was made against me.
- I was wrongly accused of a breach of sexual decency due to Karkos Anastasious, making a false statement that I lifted my dress twice.
- The Acropolis site said they had video evidence of this. The surveillance never was presented to the police, me or the court.
- I was acquitted.
- I am now in the process of suing Karkos Anastasious for lying and racially targeting me for something I didn’t do.
ARRESTED IN ATHENS
Two weeks ago, a guard at the Parthenon Acropolis in Athens wrongly accused me of exposing my genitals to children, leading to a traumatic series of events involving handcuffs, a charge of sexual indecency and more than 24 hours in custody at a Greek police station.
It has been an incredibly difficult past few weeks and to say that I’ve been shaken by this ordeal is a mild way to put it. There have been many different, sometimes false interpretations of what went on that fateful day, but here I am finally, presenting the truth.
My boyfriend Solomon and I arrived in Athens, El. Venizelos International Airport on 31st July at around 9.15pm after a 3-and-a-half hours’ flight from London’s Luton Airport. We were tired from a full day at work but mostly excited to explore the city we had been planning to visit for months.
Athens was where Solomon grew up and where most of his family still lives. They emigrated to Greece from Nigeria shortly after Solomon’s first birthday in search of a better life. Seeing his excitement when we arrived was an emotional moment for me.
It was obvious in his face as we sat on the x95 bus that he had a lot of fond memories growing up in Greece, and I was grateful to be sharing this special moment with him. Solomon had told me many stories about growing up in the birthplace of democracy. He told me that Athens was a city that truly expressed itself, which was evident by the endless number of graffiti engulfing the streets. I was truly excited to get to know this city more intimately.
The trip was also meant to be extra special as it was when I would meet Solomon’s parents for the first time. I am not going to lie, I was very nervous at first but they welcomed me with open arms and Greek Hospitality which made me feel truly at home.
While we were planning the trip, we knew that visiting Athens’ iconic monuments were on the agenda. My trip was only for 3 days, so I prioritised seeing the Hellenic Parliament, the Acropolis and Plaka.
The Acropolis is an ancient fortress which sits atop a rocky hill in Athens. In English, ”acro” means the highest point while “polis” means city. It’s a beautiful site which homes a number of historically significant ancient Greek buildings and architecture.
I was so excited about visiting the site that I went to Boohoo and got a long halter-neck white dress. The idea was to dress like a Greek Goddess. It was the perfect dress, especially for the sometimes unbearable Greek heat (think 40 degrees 104 Fahrenheit!).
We embarked on our sightseeing trip mid-afternoon on 1st of August the second day we arrived. We then made our way to the Acropolis after a fruitful visit to the parliament. At the Parliament, I was impressed by how they were able to sustain the heat in their uniform.
When we arrived at the Acropolis, we were advised not to walk to the top of the site as it was too hot, so we went to do some other sightseeing around the area. From the architecture to the natural landscapes and the company that I had, everything about Athens was lovely and inspiring.
At about 5.30pm, Solomon, his sister Rhoda and I headed over to the Acropolis. I had already seen lots of different pictures on social media and was excited about going over to see the historical site. I had learned that the Acropolis was built for the Goddess Athena, so I knew my outfit honoured that and was appropriate.
We headed straight to the top, taking pictures along the way. There were lots of laughs and even more photo-taking. We stood in front of the Parthenon, taking turns to take pictures. After Solomon posed for photos, it was my turn to pose for the camera. As I was posing, I felt my whole body being aggressively grabbed.
CHAOS AND CONFUSION
I wasn’t sure what was going on but tried my best to keep my cool while I was forcefully escorted by a woman and 3 to 4 other guards with walkie-talkies. In my confusion, I asked for an explanation in English. Instead of being answered, I was screamed at in Greek.
At this point, Solomon and Rhoda started speaking in Greek while I was still being escorted down the rocky and unbalanced terrain. I understood nothing and was confused but still didn’t think much of it.
I finally got to the bottom of the Acropolis and was shoved into a small room. I started to worry but wasn’t too panicked. It’s probably just a solvable misunderstanding, I thought. But when Rhoda burst into tears and said ”you’re a liar!” in English, I knew something was wrong.
Rhoda then explained to me that the guard said we were taking pornographic pictures and I literally burst out laughing at the absurdity of his accusation. I’m free-spirited and adventurous, sure. But Pornographic pictures? Umm, last time I checked, nipples are still banned from Instagram and that’s where all my pictures end up.
I quickly noticed a police car but did not believe that it would be for me. I was becoming restless and confused. Solomon had already shown the pictures to the staff, which were clearly far from pornographic, so I didn’t understand what else they wanted. Rhoda then explained that we should wait for ”CCTV evidence” of me taking pornographic pictures, evidence the guards said they had. I knew this wasn’t true and was happy to run along with their lies.
After about 5 mins or so of waiting for the purported proof, the guards asked for our IDs. As we did not have our passports with us, the guards said they could not show us the footage.
The police were already walking towards us and I started to get scared. When the police came they continued communicating in Greek, so I left Solomon and Rhoda to deal with the police on my behalf. When I explained that I didn’t speak Greek, they told me in English that we had to give our phones and come to the police station to verify our identities and to search for the alleged ”pornographic pictures”. They said it will only take 5 minutes. I knew I had done nothing wrong, so I complied. I handed my phone to the police officers and was driven to the police station.
GREEK POLICE & CCTV FOOTAGE THAT NEVER WAS
An hour passed at the police station and I started to ask questions: When will we be leaving? When can I get my phone back? No one, not the eight officers surrounding us, answered my questions.
After asking them repeatedly, one officer finally explained to me in English that a guard at the Acropolis had alleged that I had flashed myself. The guard said that I had opened my legs wide to show my genitals to the public. I rejected this accusation and insisted that this was a lie, but the police officer said that the guard had CCTV evidence. I said that if I was under arrest that I should have at least have my rights read out to me, a lawyer and a translator. He assured me I wasn’t being arrested and told me to continue to wait for my phone to be thoroughly checked.
While I was waiting to get my phone back, Solomon’s parents arrived at the police station and were shocked and perplexed by the accusations. After three hours of waiting, I finally got my phone back.
But that did not mean I was free. At this point, I saw the Acropolis guard – my accuser, Karkos Anastasious, walk into the station. He was there to make his police statement. I hoped and prayed that he told the truth, figured out it was a misunderstanding and apologised. But I was dead wrong.
After Karkos Anastasious left, Solomon, Rhoda and I were brought in by police officers into a room separately to verify our identities. Finally, this is almost over, I thought.
One by one, the police brought Solomon, Rhoda and I for questioning. When it was my turn, I was asked in broken English to show the pictures I took on my phone. I complied and even showed them the Deleted Photos folder on my phone. I was then told to sit down and wait.
As I sat there, 4 or 5 officers began speaking to each other. I didn’t understand what they were saying but picked up on the word “Arrest”. 30 minutes in, I messaged Solomon.
Solomon looked upset and confused before he told me:
In a quiet tone Solomon said “Ade, they’re saying you have to stay in custody. The guard made a crazy accusation about you and they are arresting you and you have to go to court tomorrow.”
This was when I made the first tweet informing the world of my arrest.
It would be a lie if I said I didn’t cry. I cried so much that I became hysterical.
What do you mean I’m staying here? What did I do to deserve this? I didn’t flash myself, I promise you! I pleaded and begged. I didn’t understand why someone would make such a lie up!
I started to ask for the video evidence while sobbing and screaming. Solomon tried to calm me down, explaining to me that there was no evidence, and that, I can request for it when I’m at court and tell the judges what had really happened.
With tears in my eyes, I begged for a translator. I did not believe what was going on nor what Solomon was telling me. I still clung to the hope that perhaps, he had mistranslated but the officers simply responded with a shrug, informing me that there is none. Some moments I thought Solomon was lying and at other moments I genuinely believed the whole ordeal was a nightmare. I could not fathom what was going on.
I tried contacting the British Embassy, but my phone wouldn’t make calls (I later found out that EE had turned off my outgoing calls in Europe).
I was in deep shock. ME, going to court? I had never been to court a day in my life and today I was going to stay in a cell and be heard in court in a foreign country. Solomon, who tirelessly continued to speak in Greek to the officers on my behalf, explained to me that as there weren’t enough beds and since I was crying and seemed shaken by the ordeal, the officers would allow me to stay at the police station while I was in custody. Solomon asked to stay with me, and he was allowed to. I didn’t feel like it was his role but as I didn’t know what I was being accused of I asked Solomon if he would translate the statement made by my accuser, Karkos Anastasious.
In his statement, he said that he had walked over to me, asking me to leave. He said that instead of leaving the premises, I lifted my dress and flashed my genitals to adults not once, but twice. Of course, I had done no such thing.
Solomon and I sat in the station from 6 pm on 1st August till 10 am the next day. In that time, I slept for less than an hour without any food.
The conditions at the police station where I was detained was disgusting. The toilet had no light, no tissue and was filthy. At one point, Solomon offered to accompany me to the toilet with his phone flashlight so I could see, but he was immediately instructed by officers not to. As I couldn’t use the toilet without any tissue anyway, I held it in.
At 10 pm, Solomon left me to get some food and tissue paper. I was crying a lot despite his best attempts to calm me down and make the hellish affair as comfortable as possible. He even pushed some chairs together so we could lie down and get some rest.
But I wasn’t able to calm down. I had so many questions, but no one to answer them. I was glad that I still had my phone, which I used to communicate with friends and family about what was going on. In the time we were held at the police station, several different police officers entered the office, smoking with different girls. It didn’t look like they were working, but I decided to stay as quiet and inoffensive as possible and try to get some rest.
Being a black female travel blogger, I decided that sharing this was important for people to understand what it’s can be like while travelling black. I prayed and prayed that whatever this was, I would wake up from this nightmare. I could not understand why someone would make such a disgusting lie about another person. I could not come up with any reason except for that I was being targeted as a black woman.
I was told that I would be taken to court at 8 am the next day, but at 8.30 am my fingerprints were taken by a police officer, which required black-ink all over my hands. Solomon then told me that he wasn’t allowed to go with me to court and that he would have to leave soon. This brought me to tears, so he decided to stay a little longer.
The thought of being left alone with people that didn’t speak English terrified me. I had heard already of a Nigerian man, father of two, that was held in custody February this year, and didn’t come out alive. I only thought the worst for myself. I was scared, terrified even. I started to enter a downward spiral of all the worst things that could happen to me. All routes of that spiralled to images of prison or death.
Solomon then broke the news to me that I would need to be put in handcuffs while being transported to court. I began to cry again.
9.30am came by, more than an hour after I was meant to be in court. When it was time for Solomon to leave I kept a brave face on as crying would only oblige him to stay. At approximately 10 am, the British Embassy called me explaining that I needed to call a lawyer from a list they had sent me via email and that my boyfriend needed to bring me my passport.
All the calls I made to the listed lawyers either didn’t get through or it was to a lawyer that didn’t deal with criminal law. At this point, I felt so alone and in an utter state of panic.
Moments later, a man came into the office, speaking Greek. One of the officers prompted me to follow him. To my surprise, I wasn’t put in handcuffs, which calmed me down a bit. I followed the officer to a small car where two men were cuffed together in the back seat of the vehicle, prompting a fresh bout of tears to spring from my eyes.
The prisoner who sat in the middle of the back seat tapped my knee in an attempt to provide some comfort, which I appreciated. I continued to beg God to get me out of this in one piece.
I was taken to what I believed to be some sort of prison, and we were all put into one room. The room had my stomach-churning. The room was a yellow-painted wall with stains all over it and smelled revolting. The benches we had to sit on were shabby with stains on them. I had never seen anything like this before.
There were around 50 to 60 other alleged criminals in the room, with many of them smoking and speaking on their mobiles. Less than five of us were women and two young girls were handcuffed together. I sat next to the young girls while a man stared, licking his lips. I felt extremely uncomfortable and did my best to cover myself with my bag.
There was a group of men who walked in with no shoes on and with bruised arms and legs, which scared me even more. Every time I started crying, the other prisoners continued to encourage me to be calm with a thumbs up. I was there for nearly 3 hours while we were called upon one at a time to take our pictures and fingerprints. I was also increasingly desperate for the toilet but refused to go as there was no light, and the smell was nauseating. Although I had a watch on, I stopped keeping track of the time as it was only making me more anxious. I was supposed to be at the beach and I was meant to be going home the next day. Instead, I was sat in a cell for something I didn’t do.
Eventually, I was put in handcuffs. I wasn’t cuffed to another person. Thank God, I thought. At this point, I was trying to count the small blessings in such a horrid situation. There was only one great thing about that cell and that was leaving for my next hurdle.
ACQUITTED IN ATHENS
On my way to court, I was asked by another prisoner if I was ok. I nodded with the hope not to have to speak to anyone for fear of trouble. I stayed quiet, I wanted out of this situation, and the only way to get out of there was for me to keep silent and keep out of trouble.
When I arrived at the court, Solomon was already there calling out positive affirmations to me through the window of the coach I was sitting in. “We are going home today, baby!,” he shouted.
I burst into tears, fighting it was no use. He had also come with his family. Getting off the coach in handcuffs and having his family see me in cuffs was such a shameful experience: Within 24 hours of meeting my partner’s parents, they were seeing me in handcuffs. I wanted the ground to swallow me up whole and make me disappear.
Solomon and his family followed me into an area where all prisoners were being kept. He wasn’t allowed to come and talk to me but called my name to wave at me and tell me that he had found me a translator. I lifted my cuffed hands to wave back. I was so worried because I hadn’t been able to get a lawyer. My friend Debbie had been messaging me about one, but my battery was weak. I finally spoke to my translator that told me that I had to remain patient.
Another hour or two had passed when all prisoners were led to a courtroom. My boyfriend and his family stood outside right behind me with words of encouragement and supportive smiles. I felt reassured to have his family behind me as well as the love and support I received.
One by one, a prisoner was led out of the courtroom. I didn’t know where they were going, but the room slowly emptied. After an hour or so, all of the last few prisoners, including myself, were instructed into another room. I saw 3 judges sat at the far end of the court in front of us. One by one, a prisoner was called to stand in front of the judges.
When my name was called to stand in front of the judges, I gulped and took a deep breath: my legs were shaken, and my belly was turning. I stood up in front of the judges, to tell the truth. My translator asked me a few questions like where I lived and what I did for a living. I explained this in detail. I was asked how do I plead to the charges. Athough, Solomon had already explained to me what I was being charged for I still wanted to confirm with the translators who tried to explain them to me. I denied all charges and requested for video evidence to be shown where I was doing this and for the guard that made the false allegation. He was called on twice but didn’t come to the stand. I then explained that I would never intentionally come to a country and disrespect it. I was only trying to honour the Greek Goddess with my outfit. I told the judges that I had witnesses with me here today that can testify against what the guard said.
At this point, the translator asked me to hold on as he said I didn’t need to explain myself further. I WAS ACQUITTED! I didn’t even hear what had been said. Time had frozen for me. The translator explained again that I was free to go. I was in a standstill for a split second, and I looked up and burst into tears. My God had seen me through. I was proven innocent and free to go. I was innocent! I am innocent!
Writing this to you was raw for me, and involved many rounds of fresh tears and crying. In some ways, it has let me realise some pain I am still holding on too.
I stand by my belief that I have experienced racism, and I now want to use my platform to help other people that have experienced discrimination while travelling to share their story. I was targeted as a black woman and I am sure I am not and will not be the first person to be targeted this way. There are many others, not just in Greece and other countries that have been targeted while travelling.
I have to say how eternally grateful for those who have supported me. Honestly, thank you. I am in absolute awe. You showed me what a great community we are in. I have many specific people to be thankful for mainly: Nomadness, Eulanda and Omo, Ardil (for legal advice), Marty and Debbie, my sister Renee and my family (who called the British Embassy for me). There are many others who have lent me their helping hand and honestly can’t thank them all enough. The support I received was truly overwhelming.
To those that were against me, I hope you have taken the time to read on what really happened and judge for yourself from a fair and objective manner. Either way, thank you for reading to the end – you now know the full truth.
Please note: I know my story has been shared on several platforms including, The Sun, The Daily Mail, Fox News, The Mirror, Open TV and many more. I want to discredit anyone who believes I was paid for my story. I do not intend to be paid for this tragedy. My only intention is to tell the story as transparent as possible.acquittedAdebolaadebola sowemimoArrestArrest in AthenscellcourtDiscriminationfamilyGreat BritainMuseumracismracism in athenssowemimo