Monday, September 07, 2009
Just hours after the shooting of 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a police officer in the Exarchia district of central Athens, hundreds started violent protests that would last for weeks and cost the country billions of euros in damages. Despite the ferocity of the response to the killing it seems that the Greek authorities have yet to appreciate the potential for backlash created by accusations of police violence. One of the major driving forces behind the December riots, the worst in modern Greek history was the conviction that the officer involved would not be punished.
In the latest case the recently formed Delta motorcycle unit stand accused of using excessive force in the arrest of a 27 year old man last week in Exarchia. According to report in today's national daily, Eleutherotypia the unnamed man was detained and beaten by several police officer who left him with broken ribs and a punctured lung. Afterwards he and four others who had also been detained were tied to a tree.
The official police report states that the detainee had been stopped during a routine check and arrested for carrying explosive materials, GBH and resisting arrest. Throughout most of last Thursday night police and youth clashed in a series of running skirmishes in the area.
As the article in Eleutherotypia points out it is a standard police tactic in such cases to charge victims of police violence with serious crime in order to justify their treatment. In a similar case in November 2007, Cypriot student, Augustinos Dimitrios whose brutal beating was captured on live TV was charged with resisting arrest.
Similarly, the police officers charged with the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos in December first stated that they had acted in self defence after allegedly being attacked by a group of stone throwing youths, including Alexandros. Despite the appearance of amateur video footage the following day which contradicted the official version of events the authorities insisted on sticking with the officer's discredited account for weeks.
The Greek police force has routinely been the object of critical attention by organisations such as UNHCR, the European Union, Amnesty International and other human rights groups. In both 2005 and 2008 the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) roundly condemned the Greek authorities for turning a blind eye to the violent treatment of prisoners and suspects by prison and police officers (click here to see report).