Damian Mac Con Uladh

Posts Tagged ‘greek police’

Police remove Syrian refugees from Syntagma

In Greece on 15 December 2014 at 9:17 am
(Photo: Screengrab/Omnia TV, YouTube)

(Photo: Screengrab/Omnia TV, YouTube)

Fifty-one Syrian refugees, among them six women and two children, who were sleeping out on Syntagma Square as part of a protest that started almost a month ago were removed by police in the early hours of Monday morning and reportedly taken to the aliens department on Petrou Ralli street.

According to a solidarity committee that has been supporting the Syrians, a contingent of police arrived to where the Syrians were sleeping at around 2.45am and quickly ordered them into a waiting police van. The same reports said that some of the Syrians were taken away barefoot as they had not been given time to gather their belongings, including important papers and documents that they had stored in bags. The committee said one Syrian was struck in the mouth and left bleeding.

A short time later, municipal cleaning crews arrived and removed the Syrians belongings and dismantled the temporary structures they had erected.

The Syrians began their protest on November 19 in order to highlight their predicament as refugees. They are seeking ways to continue their journeys to preferred destinations in Europe, where many have family or can expect to receive the necessary support as refugees.

The Greek authorities have said they can accept up to ten asylum applications from Syrians per day but warned that apart from access to healthcare, the state is not in a position to support the Syrians in any other way.

Some days ago, a number of Syrian families were taken to municipal hostels, where they have been accommodated.

Other sources: OmniaTV

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Greek island police chief snapped giving Nazi salute

In Uncategorized on 7 September 2014 at 10:58 am
Greek police office Yiorgos Kagkalos giving a Nazi salute in a German transport museum (Photo: Ethnos)

Greek police office Yiorgos Kagkalos giving a Nazi salute in a German transport museum (Photo: Ethnos)

A photograph has emerged showing the police chief of a Greek island giving a fascist salute in front of a Nazi-era train in a German museum.

In the image, published in Ethnos on Sunday, Lieutenant Yiorgos Kagkalos, chief of police on the island of Hydra, can be seen with an outstretched right arm. Behind him, on a red locomotive, is a large Reichsadler, a stylised eagle combined with the Nazi swastika used as a national emblem in Nazi Germany.

Greek police office Yiorgos Kagkalos gives a Nazi salute in a German transport museum (Photo: Ethnos)

Greek police office Yiorgos Kagkalos gives a Nazi salute in a German transport museum (Photo: Ethnos)

According to Ethnos, the photograph was taken on 13 March 2011 when Kagkalos visited the Nuremburg Transport Museum. The train appears to resemble a Elektrolokomotive E 19 12, a model of which is kept at the museum.

Read the rest of this entry »

Athens police detain women who attended rehearsals for antiracism play

In Uncategorized on 3 September 2014 at 11:18 am
Photo: Steve Criddle/Flickr

Photo: Steve Criddle/Flickr

Three members of the cast of a play that deals with racism were stopped and detained by police on Monday after finishing rehearsals, despite being in possession of valid residence permits.

The three, all women, were stopped by police and asked for their papers in Keramikos, central Athens, at around 9pm, outside of the Eutopian Workshop, where the rehearsals for the play, “No to racism from the cradle”, take place.

Police at the scene, who were not wearing service numbers and refused to reveal their names, told the women and bystanders that they were detaining them because they appeared “suspicious”.

The women were then transferred, in a patrol car bearing the registration EA 20281, to the Attica aliens bureau on Petrou Ralli street, where they were detained for two hours.

Read the rest of this entry »

Greek police face allegations of brutality … again

In Greek crisis on 5 February 2013 at 11:26 am

An Athens prosecutor has launched an inquiry into claims that four men, aged 20 to 24, arrested on Friday after a double bank robbery in northern Greece, were subsequently beaten in police custody.

Two of the suspects were being sought by police over their alleged involvement in the anarchist Fire Cells Conspiracy group, which has claimed a number of bombings since it emerged in 2008.

Concerns about the alleged abuse were raised after the police on Saturday released photos that showed telltale signs of digital editing to remove evidence of bruising. In the crudest case, the Photoshopping technique appears to have removed an object, possibly an officer’s arm, from around the neck and chest of one of the suspects.

Promising an inquiry, the country’s public order minister, Nikos Dendias, admitted that the photos were altered, but said that this was to make the suspects recognisable to the public.

He added that the men were injured during their arrest, a claim that has been flatly rejected by the some of the men, in statements relayed through their relatives.

Romanos_composite

Photoshop or Photocop? Nikos Romanos as the police wanted the public to see him (Left) and how he looked as he was brought before a prosecutor (Right)

The youngest suspect, 20-year-old Nikos Romanos (photo), witnessed the shooting dead of a classmate, Alexis Grigoropoulos, 15, by police in December 2008 in an incident that sparked days of rioting in Athens.

Romanos’s subsequent biography is symptomatic of a wider trend, according to Mary Bossi, professor for international security at the University of Piraeus.

“The fact is that there many on the periphery of Greek youth who understand themselves to be part of this anti-system, anti-everything dynamic, which has been growing for the last 15 years or so.”

“Not all are pro-violence, but the pro-violence element is growing in strength and its list of targets is widening,” she said, adding that the youth wings of mainstream political parties, including those on the left, are no longer able to absorb “extremist tendencies”.

  • A shortened version of this piece was published in the Irish Times on 5 February 2013

Greek police refuse to answer questions on Walid Taleb

In General, Greek crisis on 15 November 2012 at 4:48 pm

He was tortured by his employer for 18 hours in a stable. When he managed to escape, he spent the next four days in a police cell.

His name is Walid Tabeb. And the Greek police are refusing to answer questions about his treatment.

On Tuesday, the The Irish Times published my article on the 29-year-old Egyptian national, who was abducted and tortured by his baker employer on the island of Salamina.

Waled Taleb waits to testify to an examining magistrate in Piraeus courthouse on November 9 (Photo: Eirini Vourloumis)

The article was the most read article on the online edition of the The Irish Times that day and was shared over 1,400 times on Facebook and tweeted almost 400 times. Hopefully, this will help Walid get the justice he deserves.

The piece detailed the shocking treatment Walid endured at the hands of his four captors, but also wrote about how he was detained for four nights in a police cell after the attack. Earlier, when he was taken to hospital, medics said they had no reason to keep him in.

During his time in police custody, he says he received no medical treatment, apart from some paracetamol.

On Monday morning, I sent an email to the press office of the Greek Police containing five questions relating to his treatment.

My questions were as follows:

  1. On what grounds was Mr Walid, a victim of a brutal ordeal, detained?
  2. Did he receive any medical treatment during his attention. If so, from whom. If not, why not?
  3. On what grounds was he released on Thursday?
  4. How much of the money allegedly stolen from Mr Walid by the alleged perpetrators has been returned to him and when did this happen?
  5. Will Mr Walid be allowed remain in the country until a trial against the perpetrators is held?

When I followed the email up with a phone call, I was informed by the press office that, as I was writing for a foreign newspaper (I should point out that I am a member of  a Greek press union), I had to submit my question via the secretariat general of information and communication/secretariat general of mass media, as the former press ministry is now known.

So, I duly forwarded my original email to the general secretariat, and was subsequently informed by an official there that the police would need two full working days to answer my query. Even though that meant the answer would come through after my Irish Times deadline had passed, I nevertheless requested that my questions be answered.

My piece stated:

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.

On Thursday morning, two days later, I duly received a reply from the foreign correspondents’ office at the secretariat general, which I’ve reproduced below:

The Press Office of the Hellenic Police has just informed us that the case of Mr Walid is no longer in their jurisdiction, since the brief has already been filed to the District Attorney’s office. So, they won’t be able to answer your questions.

So there you have it: the Greek Police claims that foreign correspondents must submit questions via the former press ministry and that it takes two working days to process queries.

It was a very disingenuous answer, as other foreign correspondents I have asked say they never heard of this procedure. They say they call the police spokesman directly for comment.

With rules like this, the Greek Police can avoid answering any pressing question from a foreign correspondent on the behaviour of its officers.

A cynic would say they have designed bureaucratic procedures to avoid answering tough questions.

Do similar restrictions exist in other countries?

Update 1: The above post was written in a a hurry. It is true that the case is now before the courts. On Thursday, November 8, the baker and his alleged accomplices appeared before an examining magistrate to present their testimony and were subsequently released on restrictive conditions.

On Friday, November 9, the victim, Walid Taleb, appeared before the magistrate for the same reason.

So when I submitted my query on Monday, November 12, the police must have known about this. It was general knowledge after all, having been reported in much of the country’s press. Why they continued to insist on a two-working day right of reply to state this is most peculiar.

The only reason I can think of for the delay is that they didn’t want to see the sentence “We are unable to answer your questions” appearing in the article.

Update 2: I neglected to mention what my  five questions to the police were. I’ve now added them to the blog post.

Update 3: While the case is before the courts, it’s important to remind ourselves what the justice system will be looking at: the events leading up to Walid’s abduction and his 18-hour torture. I’m unaware that it will look at what happened afterwards, i.e. his four-night stay in a police cell. That means if the police were to comment, it could have no bearing on the trial against the baker and his accomplices.

Spreading a falsehood: the posthumous placing of a firebomb in Alexis Grigoropoulos’ hands

In Athens riots on 21 December 2008 at 8:14 pm

The truth is often one of the first causalities of war. The same applies to the recent Athens riots: not that these resembled a war (although many would argue that they did), but because truth fell victim to the dissemination of outright lies, mainly thanks to the media.

The lie is that Alexis Grigoropoulos and his friends had thrown or were about to throw a petrol bomb at the two special police offices in their car.

One might question why it is necessary to write about something that never happened.

It is important to write about it, because the idea that the youths on that fateful night were about to throw a petrol bomb at the police – thus putting their lives in grave danger – is used by many to legitimise the police killing of a 15-year-old boy.

Stencil of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, taken somewhere in Athens on 18 Dec 2008 (DMCU)

Stencil of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, taken somewhere in Athens on 18 Dec 2008 (DMCU)

Today, the newspaper I work, the Athens News, for received a letter on the riots that contained the following paragraph:

From the immediate press reports, before ideological blinkers took  hold, it appeared that the child threatened the police officers (and others) with deadly force (the petrol bomb). As such their action in shooting him dead, whilst unfortunate, was entirely reasonable. The murder charges appear to be grossly excessive and the chance of conviction to be zero. The police officer is to be pitied as a victim here. The matter was clearly one of self-defence at least if not justifiable homicide. If I were expected to judge the officer’s actions in hindsight, I would be far more alarmed about the ‘stray bullet’ hypothesis than of any action to shoot to kill in the circumstances.

The letter-writer made otherwise very valid points. However, as I told him, I could not agree to publish the above paragraph, as it contradicts much of what has emerged about that night.

I don’t think the letter-writer meant any offence and seemed sure that he had read the firebomb claim in one of the initial BBC reports on the shooting.

The BBC report contained no such claim, but some other news sources did.

False reports

Indeed, the claim that Grigoropoulos threw or had threatened to throw a bomb at the police was contained in some, but not all, of the initial reports on the killing which appeared on Sunday, December 7

These reports were:

The Australian

DOZENS of rioters have rampaged through central Athens after police shot dead a teenage boy who attempted to throw a petrol bomb at a patrol car, police officials said.

The youths smashed shop windows and set fire to refuse containers after the shooting, which took place in the traditionally left-wing Exarchia district of the Greek capital.

“Hundreds of them hit the streets, probably for revenge … Dozens of police units are gathering to try to control the situation,” said a police official, who declined to be named.

Tear gas filled the narrow streets of the busy neighbourhood and restaurants closed their shutters, witnesses said.

Police said there were no arrests or reports of injuries so far.

The shooting took place after a group of around six youths started pelting a police vehicle with stones. When one tried to throw a petrol bomb, a policeman shot him in the stomach, said the official.

Given its detail, the AFP report is, I believe, the source of the claim, and although it isn’t dated precisely, I believe it appeared before 3am GMT on Sunday, December 7, when a very similar report, published by an Iranian agency, appeared:

  • Press TV (Iran) report, published at 03:09:07 GMT on Sunday, December 7:

The shooting took place after a group of six youths started throwing stones at a police vehicle and when one of them tried to throw a petrol bomb, a policeman shot him, said a police official, who declined to be identified.

  • Another much cited report was published by CNN on December 7:

A police statement about the boy’s death said the incident started when six young protesters pelted a police patrol car with stones. The 16-year-old boy was shot as he tried to throw a fuel-filled bomb at the officers, police said.

Police said the boy had been shot after a policeman fired into a crowd of people who had launched molotov cocktails at a police car.

Aljazeera

Police said the teenager was shot in the traditionally left-wing Exarchia district of the Greek capital on Saturday after the boy tried to throw a firebomb at a patrol car.

What is most worrying about the Al Jazeera post is that it presents the firebomb claim as fact. The AFP report, on which it is clearly based, at least attributed “police officials” as a source.

The effect that this disinformation is clearly evident in the comments on the article on the Al Jazeera. The first three readers, clearly fuelled by the bomb lie, wrote:

“He was throwing a fire bomb! He deserved to be shot” – Miguel, Mexico

“The idiot tried to throw a firebomb at a patrol car. He got what he deserved.” – JB, United States

“If you’re throwing a deadly weapon … what do you expect? I believe the officer was worried for his own safety and did what he had to do. what was a fifteen year old boy doing with a fire bomb? – Scott, Canada

  • Again, in a December 8 report datestamped 02:56 GMT on December 8, Al Jazeera repeated the allegation, again as fact:

Aljazeera2

The boy had tried to throw a firebomb at a police patrol car.

A police statement about the teenage boy’s death said the incident started when six young protesters pelted a police patrol car with stones. The teen was shot as he tried to throw a petrol bomb at the officers, police said.

What did the other agencies say?

It is important to point out that other news agencies made no reference to the petrol bombs. They had no reason to as the initial police report made no such reference to a firebomb.

Several hours after the incident, police issued a statement saying the patrol car, with two officers inside, was attacked by a group of 30 stone-throwing youths while patrolling the central district of Exarchia.

According to the initial statement given by the two officers, the incident occurred shortly after 9:00 on Saturday night when a police patrol car responding to a call in the Exarhia district was surrounded by a gang of 30 youths that started throwing stones and bits of wood at them.

A falsehood spreads

The original December 7 CNN article was still online on December 15, when it was mentioned on the talk page of the Wikipedia article on the riots, 2008 Greek riots.

It has since disappeared. However, the claim remains on other CNN reports on the shooting, including the December 8 one mentioned above.

The reference to the CNN claim in Wikipedia was first made on 11:01 (Greek time), on December 8. The source was the December 7 CNN article. The wording was:

A police statement stated that the teenager was killed while trying to throw a bomb at a police vehicle.

This statement, which was later reworded to

Police reports said the initial statement of the guard was that the shooting happened in self-defense, as the victim of the shooting was about to throw a molotov cocktail at the guards.

remained on Wikipedia until 22:06 (Greek time), December 14, when it was removed.

The claim in Greece

The claim was also published by a Greek English-language weekly newspaper, Athens Plus, which is owned by International Herald Tribune and Kathimerini:

In a letter to the editor published in the December 12 issue, Kerry Kay, from Kifissia, wrote:

… watching the media covering the killing of the 15-year-old boy, no one dared ask the question “What was a 15-year-old boy doing in the middle of the night attacking police cars with Molotov bombs?’’

Arguably, no one asked the question because a) the boy wasn’t carrying a bomb and b) the incident took place at 9pm and not in the middle of the night.

Surely, the Athens Plus should have exercised more editorial intervention in relation to this letter. It is simply irresponsible for an English-language weekly that is freely available to download and which is – judging by its readers’ letters – read by many Greeks abroad, to publish such unsubstantiated claims as fact, even in a reader’s letter.

Indeed, the letter contradicts the editorial line taken in the same issue:

The murder was not committed in the heat of battle between anarchists and riot police, where it could somehow be explained as a predictable accident. It came in the form of a police officer losing his temper and firing at a group of youngsters, who may or may not have taunted him and his partner when they drove by a bar in the anarchist stronghold of Exarchia.

Who is to blame?

It’s clear that the AFP report was based on the comments made by an unnamed police officer in the early hours of Sunday morning. AFP may have seen this information as a scoop, but surely report should have been based on official the police statement of the incident, which made no reference to petrol bombs, and not on the comments of an unnamed officer.

In any case, Epaminondas Korkoneas, the policeman who fired the fatal shots, also subscribes to the firebomb thesis. As a Reuters report, dated December 10, states:

A Greek policeman facing a murder charge for the shooting of a teenager testified to prosecutors on Wednesday that he fired warnings shots in self-defence when a gang of youths threw firebombs at him, a court source said.

The 37-year-old policeman, Epaminondas Korkoneas, said he did not realise that 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos had been hit by a ricochet bullet, the source told Reuters.

Why shouldn’t he? It seems to be his only defence, and judging by the letter mentioned at the beginning of this article and the many internet discussions taking place on the incident outside of Greece, the firebomb myth assures some that the killing was somewhat justified and the subsequent disturbances, which have very real causes, are completely illegimate.

Spreading unsubstantiated rumour so grave as this one could also have incited the violent reactions of demonstrators, particularly those abroad who were presented with the “firebomb fact” by the news agencies listed above.

News reporting should not just limit itself to reporting what actually happened, but also how what happened can be manipulated.