By Eleni Stamatoukou
December 7, 2022
As thousands of people took to the streets in Athens and Thessaloniki for the 14th anniversary of the murder of the 15-year-old student Alexis Grigoropoulos, the day was marred by clashes with police and an attack on a 16-year-old Roma, Kostas Fragoulis.
Greek media outlet Efsyn reported that riot police used tear gas, beat civilians, and carried out arraignments, of which nine resulted in arrests. They also sprayed chemicals inside restaurants and apartment buildings, chasing people who participated in the protests.
On December 6, 2008, Alexis Grigoropoulos and his friends were hanging out in the Exarchia neighborhood in Athens when the group quarreled with two police officers, who initially walked away but then returned.
Special guard Epaminondas Korkoneas shot dead Alexis. Korkoneas was convicted of the killing but has since been released.
Immediately after the death of the teen, people took to the streets and riots broke out all over Greece, leading to the destruction of public and private buildings, mainly in Athens.
Police were also accused of brutality in Thessaloniki, where a 16-year-old Roma, Kostas Fragoulis, was wounded in the head by a policeman’s gun. He has been hospitalized in critical condition.
Prosecutors accused a 32-year-old police officer of attempted homicide with possible intent and illegal use of his service weapon.
BIRN asked the police for comment, but was referred to press releases. According to the police, after not paying for some petrol, Fragoulis’ vehicle made dangerous maneuvers and attempted to ram the bike of the police officers, endangering their lives.
Given an immediate danger, police said they used a weapon. In a second press release, police announced the arrest of the police officer and an official inquiry into his actions. At the same time, he was suspended.
Clashes between the Roma community and police broke out Tuesday night in Athens and Thessaloniki. Police were attacked with Molotov cocktails and stones, while barricades made of garbage cans were set on fire.
This year’s report by the Greek Ombudsman in June 2022, on the arbitrariness of the prosecuting authorities in Greece, noted that in the previous year, 308 complaints were made, most of them against police officers.
In October 2021, Nikos Sampanis, an 18-year-old Roma, was shot dead by police during a car chase. Police considered the vehicle stolen.
“I don’t know in which developed country something similar would happen. The Minister turns a blind eye to police officers accused of homicide, before they even apologize, and at the same time discredits any concept of separation of powers, a fundamental value in a state of law,” said journalist Kostas Koukoumakas at News247, who has investigated police brutality.
Amid these developments, the Prime Minister announced an extra allowance of 600 euros to police and port officers. “I don’t think it’s just bad timing,” Koukoumakas said.
The Hellenic League for Human Rights’ recent report document that the use of excessive force and arbitrariness by Greek police is a systemic phenomenon.
“The incidents are not isolated. At the same time, there is an entrenched culture of impunity and lack of accountability due to the insufficient investigation of cases and their systematic cover-up. We are at a tipping point,” said Katerina Pournara, lawyer and board member of the Hellenic League for Human Rights.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International’s multi-year research has also confirmed that Greek police violence is systemic, not an exceptional phenomenon, reproduced through a culture of impunity.
“The Greek authorities must be held accountable and immediately protect citizens from the illegal use of force and the obstruction of access to justice,” said Despina Paraskeva-Veludogianni, Head of Campaigns at Amnesty International.
Published at balkaninsight.com
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