Damian Mac Con Uladh

Posts Tagged ‘greece’

Mainstream antisemitism

In Greece on 10 February 2015 at 11:20 am
The term

The term “Jewish origins” is highlighted in this article in Ta Nea, 9 February 2015, p. 15.

The Lagarde list is back in the news in Greece, not only because of the new government’s pledge to investigate the names it contains for possible tax evasion but because of SwissLeaks, an international corroborative project to investigate the full extent of the how HSBC in Switzerland helped clients around the world dodge taxes and hide millions

This week, media outlets associated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), including the Guardian, Le Monde and BBC Panorama, began publishing findings from their research on a trove of almost 60,000 leaked files from HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary that provide details on over 100,000 clients and their bank accounts.

The new data shows that there were at least 2,148 Greek clients with accounts at the HSBC, which is 86 more than is contained in the Lagarde list held by the authorities. A former finance minister, Yiorgos Papakonstantinou, is facing trial for removing the names of three relatives from the version of the Lagarde list originally received by the government from the French authorities.

In Greece, the ICIJ’s local partner in the SwissLeaks project is Ta Nea, one of the country’s biggest mainstream newspapers.

Ta Nea is in possession of the additional Greek names, 41 of which it says have deposits of over €1m euros.

For reasons only known to itself, Ta Nea has decided to specify the religious background of one family and one individual among these large depositors.

The piece refers to a “well-known family of Jewish origin, whose members were born in Athens, Thessaloniki and Tel Aviv” as well as to a “rentier of Jewish origin who was born in Thessaloniki”.

It’s important to point out that the religious affiliation of the other account holders on the list is not provided. So, readers are not informed if the “businessman involved in shipping and born in Chios” or “three brothers born in Greece” are Orthodox, Catholics or atheists. Not that this information would be of any relevance.

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Putting theory into practice for Syria’s refugee children

In Greece on 10 December 2014 at 12:59 pm

Screenshot 2014-12-10 12.54.21

According to YouTube, this video was most-watched in Greece in 2014. Made by Save the Children UK, the tragic second-a day clip shows what could happen to a young girl’s life were war ever to break out in Britain.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent many hours talking to the Syrian war refugees who have been protesting their plight on Syntagma Square in Athens since November 19.

The Save the Children video doesn’t even come near to describing what Mariam, a wonderful nine-year-old girl, has experienced in the three years since her mother was killed in Damascus. Yet, after an ordeal that has taken her and her father though wartorn Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and now Greece, all that’s on offer for them, as they’ve been told, is asylum in Greece without any support whatsoever. A cynical offer, one that would effectively leave them homeless and destitute and without the support of relatives (in Germany and Sweden) that she and her father need.

Is that the best the EU can do for these people? Isn’t it time to translate the public’s sympathy for the plight of children made refugees by war – as the popularity of the hypothetical British video in Greece suggests – into concrete action to help the Syrian refugees?

That my native country of Ireland should feel somehow satisfied that it has resettled 201 Syrians and has plans to take in 220 more – out of a total of 3,200,000 Syrian refugees – is shameful when one considers that Greece receives that number and more every few days.

Mariam (9)

Mariam (9)

Syrian refugees’ case reaches European Court of Human Rights

In Greece on 8 December 2014 at 11:13 am
Syrian refugees prepare for their 19th night sleeping on Syntagma Square in central Athens (Photo: @NickBarnets/Twitter)

Syrian refugees prepare for their 19th night sleeping out on Syntagma Square in central Athens (Photo: @NickBarnets/Twitter)

Europe’s human rights court is expected to issue a decision early this week on an emergency case taken on behalf of some of the hundreds of Syrian refugees who have been camped out in central Athens to highlight their plight for almost three weeks.

The Syrians, among them many unaccompanied minors, families with young children and elderly, last night completed their 19th night camped out on Syntagma Square, with only rudimentary plastic sheeting to protect them from the rain and low temperatures.

They took the decision to protest in front of the Greek parliament on November 19, in an attempt to convince the government to find a solution to their acute problems. Since then, some of the protesters embarked on a hunger strike.

The application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), taken in the name of 30 Syrians, maintains that the refugees, who risked their lives in fleeing their war-torn country and in reaching Greece, should have been given automatic protection upon their arrival in Greece, according to national, European and international standards. This would also mean that they be afforded reception conditions in terms of housing, food and other support.

The decision from the Strasbourg-based court could come as soon as Monday or Tuesday, according to human rights lawyer Electra Leda Koutra, who submitted the case under the court’s rule 39 on interim measures, which are urgent measures that apply only where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm.

Among the 30 Syrians seeking the interim measure is a 12-year-old child who is an unaccompanied minor. A “holder of a Syrian passport, he has been left without information, without any kind of support, guardianship or monitoring, on the Greek streets, after having been considered ‘deportable’ to a war zone”, the application states.

Although the child has indicated that he would consider applying for asylum in Greece, he has said this would be conditional on him being promptly reunited with his brother, a recognised refugee, in Sweden. However, any such applications from unaccompanied minors would take at least eight months to process, according to the application to the court.

Although the government has said it could process up to ten applications for refugee status a day, the application to the ECtHR argues that this is a wholly inadequate response to the situation as it envisages offering homeless refugees no accommodation or support in the meantime and would thus leave them to fend for themselves and exposed to racist attacks, among other dangers.

The application also maintains that what Greece is offering to the Syrians in terms of reception conditions should they obtain refugee status is unacceptable under the country’s international obligations. In a leaflet, interior ministry officials told the Syrians that only a few women with small children would be accommodated in a hosting facility, and no subsistence or other support would be possible, “because of the Greek state’s financial crisis”.

“That documents admits in the most public – but also cynical – way that Greece cannot offer the reception conditions guaranteed by the CEAS [Common European Asylum System] on EU ground. No housing, no food, no clothing, no social and integration services are to be automatically offered, despite the opposite legislative guarantees,” Koutra told A Gael in Greece.

She adds that under Greek presidential decree 80/2006, which transposes into national law European Council directive 2001/55, the country may offer temporary protection to refugees without obliging them to apply for asylum. This would require the permission of the European Commission and Council, but Greece would need to propose it.

“This they could not refuse. This could certainly take place concerning the Syrians,” Koutra believes. “Legally, the Syrians have a chance to succeed in what they are asking, even if they don’t know the law. They are members of a large group, have come to Greece thinking it was a safe place. If Greece cannot guarantee them this, it should not obstruct them. If there is a crisis, Greece must admit this and request help.”

As the Strasbourg court has been informed by the lawyer, all the other Syrian applicants named in the case have said they will refuse to apply for asylum in Greece.

The overall situation pushes Syrians into taking unconventional ways to reach safe EU countries, the application points out, putting their lives in great danger in the process. Already, two Syrians who were part of the Syntagma protest have died while attempting to make it to western Europe on foot, including a doctor, Ayman Ghazal. On Monday, one of the Syrian protesters provided A Gael in Greece with the names of four other Syrians who died recently died after leaving Greece in forests of neighbouring countries: Nizar Sourki, who died in Macedonia, and Mohammad Aryan, Ismael Alahmad and Khaled Husain Basha, who died in Albania.

The application points to a series of ECtHR rulings that established that asylum seekers have been left in an extremely vulnerable situation and humiliated in Greece due to the failure by the authorities to act on its obligations under the EU’s reception directive. Other rulings from the court have found that asylum seekers have been subjected to “degrading treatment” in the country’s detention centres. These rulings effectively prohibit a number of EU countries from deporting asylum seekers to Greece.

She has told the court that “Recognising that Greece finds itself in a situation in which it is almost impossible to meet the needs of persons in analogous status … we requested that the Greek Government should at least recognize that fact and let them proceed to other EU countries, in any legal way possible.”

“We are of the view that, accepting to ‘gradually’ apply for asylum at this stage (as protesters), just for the ‘title’ of it, without the rights and benefits escorting the status of an asylum seeker, does not constitute an effective remedy for the applicants, in the meaning of the [European human rights] convention. It would not move them to a position of safety, and it would not redress the rights the applicants are complaining about. Moreover, it would take about two months for all the protesters to be registered, which would mean that, besides their guaranteed rights, they would have to spend winter in the Athenian streets, in a situation that is menacing their lives, bodily and mental integrity –not to mention their dignity as human beings,” she explained to the court.

Koutra hopes that whatever the outcome, the decision from the court will be extremely important. She points out that on November 26, two days after submitting her application, the ECtHR responded promptly and, applying an urgent procedure, requested the Greek government to clarify a number of points regarding the Syrians by December 5.

Firstly, the court asks the government to describe the situation the Syrians find themselves in. Second, to clarify on what measures it envisages for particularly vulnerable Syrians, such as women with young children and unaccompanied minors. Thirdly, it calls on the Greek government to explain how it intends to process asylum applications, and, finally, to explain in what conditions the asylum applicants would be obliged to wait while their applications are being processed.

Astrophotographer detects traces of ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ in tourism agency statement

In Greece on 14 November 2014 at 7:32 pm
Alex Cherney and his daughter, who led him to the stars (Photo: Facebook)

Alex Cherney and his daughter, who led him to the stars (Photo: Facebook)

When Australian astrophotographer Alex Cherney saw the excuse that the Greek tourism agency EOT came up with this week for including his timelapse footage of an unmistakable Australian landmark in a much-derided Greek tourism promotional video, he was reminded of a classic quote from the 2002 comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

“When I saw EOT claiming in a statement that ‘The mythology of the sky, at all latitudes and longitudes of the earth, is Greek’, all I could think of was the line ‘Give me any word, and I show you how the root is Greek’ from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That sort of claim denies other sky cultures, like those of the Inuit and Aboriginal,” says Cherney, who has mapped Aboriginal astronomical constellations for Stellarium, a free, open-source planetarium computer programme.

Speaking from his home in Melbourne, Australia, the award-winning astrophotographer confirmed that a licence to use a snippet from his 2010 Ocean Sky production was only purchased “after the material was used‏” and after this blog reported that it had been included in EOT’s video without his knowledge or permission.

About 16 seconds of footage from Ocean Sky, a timelapse production that took him 1.5 years of work and 31 hours of taking images over six nights on the Southern Ocean Coast in Australia, appears in the Gods, Myths, Heroes video. The clip shows the Twelve Apostles, a very famous Victoria landmark.

Cherney says the first he heard that his footage was in the video was in the early hours of November 10 when someone from Greece alerted him through Facebook. His Greek contact suspected it was without his permission. Cherney’s initial response was one of surprise, especially as this was a video put out by an official tourism agency: “How do you react when someone tries to steal your work? It’s not nice. Going to these remote places is expensive. One night’s filming gets you 20 seconds of timelapse footage if you’re taking two shots a minute, as I did.”

Later that day, he emailed the producer of the Visit Greece film, Andonis Theocharis Kioukas of Qkas Productions, with a link to the video’s licensing page. Kioukas replied to inform him that he had subsequently purchased the appropriate rights from an agency representing Cherney, a transaction he has been able to confirm.

“This was done after the material was used, so in this regard EOT and Mr Kioukas did the right thing to rectify the situation‏. I think I have to give Mr Kioukas the benefit of the doubt and assume a genuine mistake which was rectified properly and promptly. However, I cannot speculate how and where did they got the original footage. I have had that video ripped off and the copyright removed before, so it is possible that they got it from a source that already did not have the copyright mark there‏.”‏

Footage by Alex Cherney of the Twelve Apostles, an Australian landmark, was used in the EOT video without permission (Screengrabs)

Footage by Alex Cherney of the Twelve Apostles, an Australian landmark, was used in the EOT video without permission (Screengrabs)

In any case, however, he maintains it was not enough for EOT to say they were not responsible. Earlier this week, an EOT official informed this blog that “EOT is never using [sic] footage without clearance. We collaborate with production companies that, according to their contract with the organisation, are responsible for every permission of use of the material.”

For that reason, Cherney believes, EOT, which after all paid for the film to be made, should exercise more diligence and oversight in ensuring that all material that appears under its name is authorised and licensed. He added that were the case had come to court – and he’s grateful it won’t – he would have sued “EOT as the first point of contact”, not the producer.

It’s the duty of every producer to seek permission to use material, he said. “I always mix my videos with music, but I always look for a creative commons licence or contact the rights holder directly. Likewise, most producers would contact me directly, or through an agency, to negotiate a price to use the material. That’s how I fund other trips and projects.”

Cherney points out that in the EOT video, his footage has been cropped just above the copyright line, which is unmistakable in the original. “That constituted unauthorised usage of my footage because the copyright mark was not visible.”

However, the watermarks of Greek photographers whose material was used can be seen in the tourism video. Earlier this week, another photographer, Norwegian Athens resident Stian Rekdal, said footage of his had also been used without his permission. Likewise, his watermarks had been removed in the EOT video. Questions from this journalist to EOT about the missing watermarks have gone unanswered. Rekdal has since confirmed on Facebook that he has been compensated for the use of the footage in the EOT video.

“The good thing about the attention given to this story is that it raises the importance of the correct licensing of video materials and should help prevent misuse in the future,” Cherney believes. ‏

My big fat Greek sky

Cherney points out that ancient Greek sailors would have been very confused had they encountered the night sky visible in his Ocean Sky video. “While there no southern constellations in it, what you see – like the Scorpius – are all upside down. And just off screen to the left is the Southern Cross, which the ancient Greeks did not know about. If ancient Greeks sailors used these for navigation, they would have ended up in Australia.”

When Giant Fish Leaves the Sky it is Time to Travel: Alex Cherney and John Morieson’s cultural reconstruction of the night sky totems and stories from the Aboriginal Boorong clan, which lived in northwestern Victoria, Australia

Success

Ocean Sky proved so impressive that it landed Cherney first prize for astrophotography at the astronomy-related 2011 Starmus Festival, held in Tenerife in 2011. He says that given it has a staggering 2m views on Vimeo, it was only a matter of time before someone spotted his footage in the Greek video.

His success is all the more impressive considering that he only started looking at the stars in 2007 when his daughter, then four, asked him to help her “find aliens” as part of a space project she was doing at school.

“We went to a local astronomy club and when I looked through a telescope, I said ‘What have I been missing?’”

Controversial Greek tourism video hit by plagiarism claims

In Greece on 10 November 2014 at 3:52 pm
Spot the difference? Stian Rekdal's footage (left) and the same scene in the Visit Greece video right (Screengrabs: Stian Rekdal)

Spot the difference? Stian Rekdal’s footage (left) and the same scene in the Visit Greece video right (Screengrab: Stian Rekdal)

The new official Visit Greece tourism video that was described on this blog last week as “hackneyed, corny and stodgy” includes copyright footage lifted from the work of at least two photographers without their permission.

One of the professionals, timelapse photographer Stian Rekdal, told this journalist that five clips from a 2012 video he made feature in Greek tourism agency EOT’s Gods, Myths, Heroes video, which had to be re-edited last week after a British newspaper passed on the news (without crediting this blog as a source) to EOT that it contained footage of the infamous 1936 Olympics held in Berlin under Hitler.

Originally from Norway but now living in Athens, Stian Rekdal produced the spectacular timelapse video, simply entitled Greece, after clocking up 2,500km in a 16-day road trip in 2012 during which he managed to take over 116,000 images.

The six-minute video has been watched by nearly 100,000 people since going on line over two years ago. It was so successful that shortly after posting it to video sharing site Vimeo, LG purchased some clips from it to demonstrate the quality of television screens worldwide. That contract ran for two years, Rekdal explains. “If you were looking to buy an LG television during that time, you probably saw my work on the screen in the shops,” he said.

One of the shots used in the Visit Greece video – a scene from Santorini – took Rekdal five hours to make. “That involved me minding a camera for three hours and another two hours of post-processing. You’re never guaranteed to get the image you want. Someone might stand in front of your camera for ten minutes and there’s nothing you can do, so you have to chose a setting where that can’t happen,” he explains.

Above: footage by Stian Rekdal. Below: how it appears in Visit Greece tourism video (Screengrabs: Damian Mac Con Uladh)

Above: footage by Stian Rekdal. Below: how it appears in Visit Greece tourism video (Screengrabs: Damian Mac Con Uladh)

Footage taken by Rekdal on the Cycladic island of Santorini and in Zagorochoria in the northwestern region of Epirus are among those used in the EOT video. Although Rekdal watermarked the original video with a copyright logo, this was removed in most of the clips used by Visit Greece. The copyright watermark is, however, visible in a clip from Ancient Olympia, onto which the tourism agency superimposed an image of Hercules.

Above: footage by Stian Rekdal. Below: how it appears in Visit Greece tourism video (Screengrabs: Damian Mac Con Uladh)

Above: footage by Stian Rekdal. Below: how it appears in Visit Greece tourism video (Screengrabs: Damian Mac Con Uladh)

Above: footage by Stian Rekdal. Below: how it appears in Visit Greece tourism video (Screengrabs: Damian Mac Con Uladh)

Above: footage by Stian Rekdal. Below: how it appears in Visit Greece tourism video (Screengrabs: Damian Mac Con Uladh)

Rekdal said he was alerted about the copyright infringement by an Australian colleague, Alex Cherney, who discovered that a timelapse sequence he took of the Twelve Apostles, a famous Australian landmark, was included in the Greek tourism video, again without his prior knowledge or permission. Cherney’s watermark was also not visible in the Visit Greece video.

Footage by Alex Cherney of the Twelve Apostles, an Australian landmark, was used in the EOT video without permission (Screengrabs)

Footage by Alex Cherney of the Twelve Apostles, an Australian landmark, was used in the EOT video without permission (Screengrabs)

Although the tourism agency credits other photographers for the use of their work, neither Rekdal or Cherney are acknowledged anywhere in the video. Rekdal also suspects that since emailing Visit Greece on Sunday for an explanation, a number of scenes were subsequently removed from its video.

Rekdal said EOT’s use of his material without permission is all the more surprising as it’s not the first time it’s happened. Last June, he spotted other intellectual property of his in another Visit Greece video and was duly compensated for it by the production company that made the advertisement.

An earlier version of Visit Greece's promotional spot contained these images from Stian Rekdal's video. They were subsequently removed (Screengrabs: Stian Rekdal)

An earlier version of Visit Greece’s promotional spot contained these images from Stian Rekdal’s video. They were subsequently removed (Screengrabs: Stian Rekdal)

Unless the tourism agency deals with the copyright infringement in a speedy manner, Rekdal fears he will have to request YouTube to remove the video by submitting a copyright takedown notice, known as a DMCA. “It’s a shame for it to happen like this. But if EOT continues to infringe on copyright, it risks losing its YouTube channel. You only have a certain number of strikes,” he says.

“Photography is my job. I licence things for a living. I can’t run a business if people just help themselves. While it’s hard for an organisation like EOT to know where all the material they use comes from, there seems to be a culture in Greek post-production to take what you want from the internet with no regard for who made it or created it. It’s a shame how people help themselves when they are paid to do a job. It’s plainly illegal and something has to change,” Rekdal remarked.

Despite numerous requests to EOT, no one was available to comment on the claims put forward by the photographers.

Update: At 9.20pm, I received the following message from EOT regarding the plagiarism claims:

Regarding your article concerning the commemorative video entitled GODS-MYTHS-HEROES, we would like to stress out the fact that:

EOT is never using footage without clearance. We collaborate with production companies that, according to their contract with the organisation, are responsible for every permission of use of the material.

As far as it concerns specific material created by Mr Stian Redkal, according to written confirmation of the video’s director, Mr Antonis Kioukas, the said footage is free of broadcasting rights for the purposes and uses that EOT has requested for (i.e. broadcasting on every digital media platform including tv, internet , social media, presentations etc.)

You may consider this message as the official GNTO position and announcement on the matter.

Above: footage by Stian Rekdal. Below: how it appears in Visit Greece tourism video (Screengrabs: Damian Mac Con Uladh)
Above: footage by Stian Rekdal. Below: how it appears in Visit Greece tourism video (Screengrabs: Damian Mac Con Uladh)

Not the gods again! Greece launches new tourism ‘communications strategy’

In Greece on 5 November 2014 at 1:25 am
How tacky can you get?  A statue of the god Hercules superimposed on a scene from Olympia

How tacky can you get? A statue of the god Hercules superimposed on a scene from Olympia

[See update below]

The Manhattan cityscape by night, a middle-aged (fictitious) male writer sitting alone in his penthouse office and dreaming of Greece with a soundtrack that’s reminiscent of 1980s US soap operas Dynasty or Falcon Crest … if there’s a way to start a promotional video for Greek tourism, then this is surely not the way to do it.

The video, entitled “And everywhere you turn: Gods … Myths … Heroes”, is described as visualising the national tourism agency EOT’s “communications strategy” for 2015, the aim of which is to attract more visitors.

According to the tourism minister, Olga Kefalogianni, the “new communication strategy is based on the Greek gods and ancient heroes that we have all read about since our childhood and have all known since our school years”.

It’s a strategy built on the concept that contemporary activities such as harvesting, entertainment, sports, learning and arts are inspired and correspond to a Greek god, a Greek hero, a myth or a historical event.

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All Golden Dawn MPs should face criminal trial, prosecutor recommends

In Greece on 17 October 2014 at 10:28 am

All 18 MPs elected with the neonazi Golden Dawn party in 2012 should stand trial for membership of a criminal organisation, a prosecutor said on Thursday, in a massive 698-page report submitted to judges.

In total, prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos, who is handling the Golden Dawn case, recommended that 67 out of a total of 81 people accused in the case be indicted on criminal charges. As one of the accused was underage at the time, he should face the juvenile court.

Of the remaining 14 people, Dogiakos said there was insufficient evidence against nine of them but that three should face misdemeanour charges.

“A party that seeks to achieve its goals through the use of physical or armed force is not legal,” Dogiakos said in his report, stressing that the courts have the right to judge a political party as a criminal organisation.

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Greece’s heavily indebted coalition parties move to ringfence state funding from seizure

In Greece on 16 October 2014 at 10:29 am
The maths. 2013: New Democracy +Pasok = €270m

Debt to democracy: “2013: New Democracy +Pasok = €270m” (Screengrab from a video on party debt produced by the Drasi party)

Coalition parties New Democracy and Pasok, which combined owe over €270m to the country’s banks, on Wednesday successfully tabled an amendment that will ringfence 40% of state funding to political parties from seizure.

In a last-minute intervention, the heavily indebted parties introduced the amendment to a draft bill on political funding on the grounds that it was to safeguard the “minimum guaranteed revenue for and the sustainability of parties”.

The opposition voted against the amendment, arguing that it was specifically tailored to serve the needs of the heavily indebted coalition parties. However, none of the opposition parties called for a roll-call vote on the amendment.

In recent years, Pasok’s and New Democracy’s debts have left both parties struggling to pay their employees’ wages and social insurance, rent and other bills. Given its plummeting political fortunes in recent years, Pasok by far faces the greatest problems as its state financing has decreased accordingly.

The move by the ruling parties to protect a significant portion of state funding from possible seizure is being widely viewed within the context of the strong possibility of snap elections between now and spring.

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New film follows the transformation of the Agora from democracy to the market

In Greece, Greek crisis on 15 October 2014 at 1:56 pm

Agora_Poster_EN_web_short

A hard-hitting documentary about the Greek crisis will have its world premiere world premiere on November 9 at the upcoming Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival (CPH:DOX), which runs from 6–16 November 2014.

Entitled Agorá, the 90-minute film is by award-winning Greek journalist and filmmaker Yorgos Avgeropoulos, who created the successful Exandas documentary series that ran on ERT public television until the station’s closure by the coalition government in June 2013.

AGORA – From Democracy to the Market [Trailer] from Small Planet Productions on Vimeo.

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‘We’re dying to pay our taxes’

In General, Greek crisis on 6 October 2014 at 9:42 am

This is the transcript of a “Reporter’s notebook” piece I did for BBC Radio Scotland’s “Good Morning Scotland” programme that was broadcast on Saturday 4 October 2014. 

Like thousands of citizens, Nikolas Elliniadis had left it to deadline day to go to his bank, in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, to pay the first of six instalments of Greece’s new property tax, the latest levy to hit a population beleaguered after five years of austerity.

Finding a long queue, the 70-year-old pensioner took a number, sat down and prepared himself for a long wait in the crowded room as flustered officials tried to process a last-minute deluge of property tax remittances.

In many cases, these were being paid with pensions that had been distributed only the day before.

An hour and a half later, after saying he wasn’t feeling well, Elliniadis collapsed.

He was having a heart attack. Although his fellow customers and the emergency services did what they could, he was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

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