Damian Mac Con Uladh

Posts Tagged ‘Greece police’

Video details police violence in Exarchia

In Greece on 19 November 2014 at 10:37 am
(Screengrab: YouTube)

(Screengrab: YouTube)

Damning video footage has emerged showing the heavy-handed tactics of police in the central Athens district of Exarchia on Monday night after the protest marches commemorating the 1973 Polytechnic uprising.

According to the video, recorded by photographer Chloe Kritharas, a young man claiming to work at a kiosk on Exarchia Square was beaten when he asked a riot policeman, who he said had taken a bottle of water, to pay for it. A policeman can be seen pulling the man by his collar while others strike him on the back with truncheons, verbally abusing him and others.

The recording also shows officers from the Delta rapid-response motorcycle unit waving batons in the air as they drove in columns through the streets.

The police on Tuesday said it had ordered the launch of an internal inquiry and preliminary investigation into the incident at the kiosk by its internal affairs department.

In another message on Facebook, Kritharas claims on the same evening she was chased by a riot policeman who shouted “Give me your fucking ID, bitch” before kicking her.

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German exchange student assaulted by Greek police

In Greece on 18 November 2014 at 11:42 am
(Photo: Ni Ls/Facebook)

(Photo: Ni Ls/Facebook)

This is a German exchange student Ni Ls (obviously a shortened version of his real name). Yesterday he claims he was assaulted by a number police in Athens and beaten with batons as he stood by himself on a street corner near a demonstration taking place in the centre of Athens, where thousands of people were marching on the 41st anniversary of the 1973 Polytechnic uprising against the junta.

On his Facebook page, he wrote: “Got beaten up by GREEK POLICE. Stood in a street close to a demonstration. Had no weapons, my face was uncovered, I was just standing alone in a corner raising my hands to show I am unarmed. They just beat me down with sticks. I did not do anything, I said nothing. When I was lying on the ground screaming even more policemen came to beat me. Hiding at the place of some very nice greek people now. What kind of country is this where you have to be scared of the police???”

Let’s see what the police and the interior minister have to say about another incident of disgraceful behaviour by the police in the capital.

(Photo: Ni Ls/Facebook)

(Photo: Ni Ls/Facebook)

Riot police attack students outside Athens Polytechnic

In Greece on 14 November 2014 at 10:09 am
(Photo: Orestis Seferoglou/Eleftherotypia)

(Photo: Orestis Seferoglou/Eleftherotypia)

Amid scenes of panic, riot police used stun grenades and tear gas to attack hundreds students attempting to hold a protest meeting on the campus of Athens Polytechnic on Thursday night.

In a video filmed from a balcony on Stournari St, where students had managed to force open a side gate to the university, which reportedly had been locked on the orders of the rector, a detachment of MAT riot police can be seen attacking the demonstrating students as they approached the entrance at around 8pm.

The footage shows officers – who reportedly had given no prior warning to the students to disperse – chasing protesters, hitting them indiscriminately with batons, and spraying gas into a crowd of people they had cornered around the university entrance.

There were reports of about a dozen injuries. Witnesses said they saw photojournalist Giannis Liakos of InTime agency being stuck in the head with a baton by a riot policeman.

The students had planned to hold a general assembly to discuss events earlier in the day at Athens University, where riot police moved in to prevent the building being occupied ahead of Monday’s commemoration of the 1973 Polytechnic uprising which was bloodily suppressed by the junta.

Two students suffering injuries, one to the head and face, when riot police moved in on protesters who had gathered outside the university.

Vassilis Paleokostas: Greece’s Robin Hood?

In General on 25 September 2014 at 10:27 am

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It certainly is the stuff of movies and now that an extensive and gripping feature article detailing his life, bank-robbing and kidnapping exploits and two helicopter prison escapes has appeared on the BBC, fugitive Vassilis Paleokostas (48) could certainly expect that someday his fascinating story could make it to the silver screen.

Researched and written by Los Angeles-based British journalist Jeff Maysh over many months, The Uncatchable takes an immersive approach to explain the biography of a man dubbed Greece’s Robin Hood, because of his legendary habit of distributing the proceeds of his crimes to people in need: from poor farmers, girls needing dowries and migrants.

For the article, Maysh spoke to many people who know Paleokostas, including his father, Leonidas, and Costas Samaras, aka the Artist, who was a mentor to the young Paleokostas and his brother. Alket Rizai, the Albanian hitman who fled with Paleokostas in the second helicopter escape, also spoke to Maysh from his prison cell.

The Trikala-born brigand, who remains at large, would certainly take great pleasure if a movie ever materialised, considering his life-long love for action movies, a passion that developed when his family moved down from the mountains in the 1970s and got electricity for the first time. Indeed, when police swooped in on him in 2008, they found a DVD of Ransom and the Al Pacino movie Heat, about two veteran bank robbers evading the cops.

Walid can stay

In Greece on 4 December 2012 at 11:04 pm

Walid Tabeb, the undocumented migrant who was abducted and tortured by his baker employer and three accomplices in an 18-hour ordeal on November 3, will not be deported from Greece to his native Egypt, the Greek police announced on December 4.

In a statement, issued exactly one month after Walid’s ordeal at the hands of his captors, the police said that at the recommendation of the public order minister, Nikos Dendias, it had decided “for humanitarian reasons not to initiate deportation proceedings” against him.

The brief statement read:

The leadership of the Greek Police announces that, following a proposal from the minister for public order and citizen protection, Mr Nikolaos Dendias, it has decided for humanitarian reasons not to take any deportation proceedings against an Egyptian national who recently fell victim to abuse and torture at Salamina.

Initially, the police had told Walid that, as he was an illegal immigrant, he had 30 days to leave Greece. Indeed, for four days after his ordeal, he was detained in a police cell, without access to medical treatment. He was hospitalised after his release from police custody.

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Walid Taleb after he was found by passersby on November 4

Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have repeatedly criticised the police for treating the victims of racist crimes as a guilty party. Reports have found that police regularly refuse to record reports of racists attacks from victims and even arrest those who attempt to report incidents.

The groups say this has left the victims of racist attacks too terrified to approach the police in Greece.

One wonders why it took Dendias and the police exactly one month to reach this decision. Undoubtedly, it had something to do with the recent visit of United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, which ended on December 3.

Crépeau, who met Dendias the day before the police statement was issued, had this to say about the link between the police and racist attacks in his preliminary report on his nine-day fact-finding mission:

I am deeply concerned about the widespread xenophobic violence and attacks against migrants in Greece, and I strongly condemn the inadequate response by the law enforcement agencies to curb this violence, and to punish those responsible. I have also been informed of several cases of police involvement in these attacks. Many of these cases go unreported as irregular migrants fear they will be detained and deported if they contact the police.

When I spoke to Crépeau on December 3, he said he was aware that there was a development in the case.

It’s also important to point out that this is the first official police statement on Walid’s case. The police’s press office issued no press releases after he was found beaten black and blue on a road in Salamina on November 4.

When I asked an officer in the press office why no statement appeared, I was told that “we don’t put everything up on the website” and that by the time the police had worked out the facts of the case, it was old news!

A more likely excuse was that the police could not issue a statement on the case as the victim – and not the perpetrators – was in police custody.

On the day he was found, the police press office found the time to publish statements on the “arrest of an alien for pickpocketing from elderly passengers on buses” and “arrest of two aliens for theft from minors”.

My attempts to seek written answers from the police on why Walid was detained after his ordeal were stonewalled, with the press office claiming that it could not comment on the case as it was before the courts.

Claims of rising racism in Greece as young Egyptian tortured by employer

In Greece on 13 November 2012 at 9:42 am
Walid Taleb some days after his ordeal in Piraeus courthouse in 2012 (Photo: Eirini Vourloumis)

Walid Taleb some days after his ordeal in Piraeus courthouse in 2012 (Photo: Eirini Vourloumis)

As he arrived on his bike for a 3am clock-in at the family-owned bakery on the Greek island of Salamina, Walid Taleb had no reason to think his 10-hour shift that morning would be different from any other.

But Saturday, November 3rd, was to prove different – the 29-year-old Egyptian migrant disappeared into a maelstrom of beating at the hands of his employer, his son and two accomplices, who chained him up and tortured him for 18 hours in a stable.

That ordeal was followed by indifference by medics, who said he didn’t require hospitalisation after he was found beaten black and blue on a village street, and by police, who detained him in a cell for four nights after the attack. On that Saturday morning, Walid’s trouble started two hours before the end of his shift, when baker Yiorgos Sgourdos’s son, a 19-year-old just back from his compulsory military service, told the Egyptian to clear off and never come back.

Unpaid wages

Taken aback at his rash dismissal, Walid felt there was little he could do as an immigrant with no papers. But he did ask for the two months’ unpaid wages he was owed.

Hearing that, the baker’s son twice punched Walid in the face. With that, the father appeared on the scene with another man, and they joined in the beating.

They searched him, and in a pocket found a large sum, about €12,000, a discovery that fuelled, they would later tell an examining magistrate, their suspicion that he was stealing from the premises. It’s a charge that his friends strenuously deny, pointing out that, unable to open bank accounts, they entrusted their hard-earned savings to the care of Walid, whom his compatriots saw as safe and trustworthy.

Walid’s three tormenters then placed a ring and chain around his neck, bundled him into a car and drove a short distance to a stable, next to the baker’s home.

That’s when the horror started for Walid, who says the baker and his gang seemed to be in for the long haul: police later found water, food, alcohol and cigarettes in the outhouse. In the ordeal that followed, he was beaten in shifts and told he would be killed.

“‘You will die here and here you will be buried.’ The son told me that his father had a gun and that he would kill me,” Walid told this newspaper, adding that he was certain he would never leave the stable alive. But when the baker and the others left the stable to open the bakery on Sunday morning, Walid managed to use a rock to smash the ring binding him to the ground. Stumbling outside, his face bruised, and unable to talk, he wandered for a couple of hours around the village before collapsing in front of a petrol station, when shocked passersby called the police.

Walid Taleb was found beaten on a street in Salamina

Walid Taleb was found beaten on a street in Salamina

Taken to hospital by ambulance, Walid’s second ordeal then started. When doctors said there was no need to keep him in, the police took him into custody, detaining him for three nights in a cell with criminal suspects on Salamina and a night in the Athens “aliens’ bureau”, where preparations were made to deport him to Egypt.

No medical treatment

Contacted yesterday, Greece’s police press office said it would need two working days to answer written questions from The Irish Times about Walid’s treatment.

Rabab Hassan, a volunteer with the Egyptian community in Greece, said: “Walid received no medical treatment in all this time, apart from some paracetamol given to him by the police.”

With the help of a lawyer, Hassan managed to secure Walid’s release from custody four nights after the attack. The same day, Sgourdos, the baker, was also released, subject to restrictive bail terms. Along with his three co-accused, he faces charges of robbery, abduction and grievous bodily harm and illegally employing an alien. If found guilty, he could go to prison for at least 10 years.

What has shocked observers is that the 59-year-old Sgourdos is a former local councillor and deputy mayor for conservative New Democracy on Salamina. Last Friday, as four friends carried him out of a Piraeus courtroom where he testified to an examining magistrate, Walid’s pain was etched on his face. Barely able to whisper and with his head slumped on the shoulder of a friend, he dozed off while fellow Egyptians from Salamina looked on in disbelief as they recounted the unbelievable and unpredicted ordeal among themselves. They said he was still passing blood six days after the incident.

Alarmed that Walid had not returned home from work, they had spent hours on Saturday and Sunday morning looking for their friend. When they asked at the bakery on Saturday, they were told Walid had left as normal.

“On Sunday morning I spoke to the baker, who offered me coffee and walked around with me looking for Walid’s bike. He even said to me that by not showing up for work, he was destroying his business,” said Mustafa Samir, as he sat with Walid in a Piraeus hospital on Saturday. His ordeal is more proof that casual brutality towards foreigners is on the rise in Greece, where Golden Dawn, an openly violent, fascist party that demands the immediate deportation of all illegal migrants and the mining of the country’s borders, has 18 MPs in the 300-seat parliament.

UN response

Characterising the attack as one of “striking brutality”, the Athens office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which recently set up a racist violence recording network with a number of non-governmental organisations, said it can be considered a racially motivated act “since it is doubtful that such an act would have been the same had the victim been Greek”.

It added that the response of the authorities in Walid’s case “follows a pattern” noted in a recent report from the network whereby survivors lacking legal documents have been arrested with a view to deportation after going to the police to report racist violence against them.

“If this happened to a Greek in Egypt, what would the reaction of the Greek government have been?” Walid, who is married and has two young daughters, asked from his hospital bed.

* This article appeared in the Irish Times on 13 November 2012