Sunday, February 22, 2009

Prisoners escape Greek jail by copter for second time

For the second time in three years the same convicted bank robbers, Vasilis Paleokostas and Alket Razai have escaped from Greece's largest prison, Korydallos in exactly the same manner. Little after 4pm a helicopter took the inmates from the prison yard so repeating their previous escape attempt in 2006 from the same jail when the pair used a hi-jacked copter.

Despite government promises in 2006 that steps would be taken to avoid a repetition of the previous prison attempt local media report say that no additional measures had been taken to prevent another airbourne escape.

Prison guards inside the prison shot at the helicopter as it was leaving as did a platoon of riot police positioned outside the main entrance resulting in the injury of one officer whose weapon went off as he was taking it out of his holster.

Questions still remain over how exactly the two prisoners who were being held in isolation at the time managed to get out into the prison yard. However, the Greek prison system has been severely criticised in a series of Human rights and European Union reports for lack of supervision and oversight.

In its 2007 report the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumanor Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) noted that just one officer was on duty during their visit supervising 446 prisoners on the facility's C Wing and that in other wings no more than three officers were present.

In addition severe overcrowding, violence, rampant drug use and primitive health care facilities are some of the problems facing the country's prison system.

Timo Behrendt, a 31 German national who was arrested during a demonstration outside the university of Thessaloniki in 2008 and held for more than four months before being released also spoke of random violence meted out to inmates by gaurds, organised gangs and the pervasive drugs trade that goes on under the noses of the authorities in an interview today in the local Macedonia newspaper.

Both Paleokostas and Razai were both due to appear in court tomorrow to face charges connected with their previous escape.

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