The six SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance MEPs, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Kostas Arvanitis, Alexis Georgoulis, Petros Kokkalis, Stelios Kouloglou and Elena Kountoura, are expressing their protestations and concern about the State of repression that is taking form in Greece, by the Greek government and the leadership of the Police. In the midst of a strict lockdown, in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the MEPs sent an official letter to the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. The MEPs are also addressing the letter to the Chairs of all the political groups of the European Parliament’s democratic arc, as well as to the Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), Juan Lopez Aguilar. Within this letter, they are pointing out incidents of unprovoked police brutality towards citizens, such as the one that took place last Sunday (7 March, 2021) in a public square in one of the largest suburbs of Athens (Nea Smyrni). Such incidents have become a daily practice by the Police, firmly embedding violence into the citizens’ lives.
As they emphasize, it is becoming all the more apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic has been used as a vehicle to curtail citizens’ fundamental rights, while describing in detail the incident of violence in Nea Smyrni last Sunday. In addition, they claim that in the framework of the Rule of Law, an unprovoked and an unjustifiable attack against families who were complying with health measures required by COVID-19 protection legislation is not acceptable. During this specific incident, Police Officers bullied citizens, not shying away from using metal truncheons, clearly prohibited under Greek law.
SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance MEPs informed the European leaders, via their letter, that this specific incident is now the subject of a criminal investigation, following the Athens Bar Association’s intervention to the Prosecutor’s Office. They also pointed out the statements of the Greek Minister of Citizen Protection, Michalis Chrysochoidis, stated that “unnecessary violence will not be justified”, however this statement was unburdened by substance, since the Sworn Administrative Inquiries ordered by the Minister for similar, very recent incidents, found no liability at all for the police officers involved. With this letter, it is also pointed out the one – sided attitude of many Greek media, that adopted the Police’s outrageous account of events without any sort of cross checking.
The six MEPs of SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance are calling the representatives of the European Institutions to support the Rule of Law in Greece, which it is now evident to all, that the Greek government is powerless to preserve and are asking them to join their voices with those of the champions of the Rule of Law, both in Greece and elsewhere in the EU.
To the attention of:
Mr. David Maria Sassoli
President of the European Parliament
The Presidents of the Political Groups in the European Parliament
Mr. Juan Fernando López Aguilar
Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
10 March 2021
Subject: Increased cases of police brutality in Greece
Dear President Sassoli,
Dear Presidents of the Political Groups,
Dear Chair of the LIBE Committee,
With this letter we would like to give voice to our protestations and concern for the State of repression taking form in Greece, by the Greek government and the leadership of the Police, in the midst of a hard lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Incidents of unprovoked police brutality towards citizens, such as the one that took place last Sunday (7 March 2021) in a public square in one of the largest suburbs of Athens (Nea Smyrni), have become a daily practice for the Police, firmly embedding violence into the citizens’ lives.
For more than a year, the Greek people have shown exemplary respect toward and compliance with prevention measures meant to combat the pandemic, and despite said measures’ severity, have shown a remarkable sense of responsibility and patience. At the same time, however, it is becoming all the more apparent that the pandemic has been used as a vehicle to curtail citizens’ fundamental rights, with a simultaneous dramatic increase of police brutality.
The attack of last Sunday was both unprovoked and unjustifiable. The target was families, in an open, public space, people who were complying with health measures (wearing masks, keeping distances, having sent the SMS required to exit their homes and received the relevant confirmation). In no way can these actions be acceptable under Rule of Law, and Greek society, as a whole, condemns them. During this specific incident, Police Officers bullied citizens, only to follow up with unprovoked, extremely dangerous violence, not shying away from using metal truncheons, clearly prohibited under Greek law. That last element was the reason that this specific incident is now the subject of a criminal investigation, following the Athens Bar Association’s intervention to the Prosecutor’s Office, to determine both the perpetrators and accessories and bring them before Justice.
On top of all this extreme violence, Police leadership, instead of assuming a position fit for a modern state under Rule of Law and immediately initiating the proper administrative procedures on those police officers, gave out a false statement, relaying that it was the police officers who came under attack, and that one of the arrested attempted to take an officers weapon, a very serious and very unsubstantiated charge, since the whole incident was documented by multiple witnesses on their phones.
On Monday, the Greek Minister of Citizen Protection, Michalis Chrysochoidis, stated that “unnecessary violence will not be justified” and that “those responsible will be held accountable, both at a disciplinary and a criminal level”. A statement unburdened by substance, since the Sworn Administrative Inquiries ordered by the Minister for similar, very recent incidents, found no liability at all for the police officers involved.
Meanwhile, the former deputy spokesperson for the governing party of Nea Dimokratia, Konstantinos Kyranakis, was disclosing in a morning news show the full name and political affiliations of one of the arrestees, without naming his source - which later in the news cycle was confirmed to be a non-paper circulated among Nea Dimokratia MPs.
Speaking of the Greek Media, their one-sided coverage of events, having everything to do with the government funding they receive, has been the subject of protestations by Greek citizens. As has been the case numerous times in the past, both public and privately owned media (with only a few exceptions) adopted the Police’s outrageous account of events without any sort of cross checking. As result, Greek citizens once more felt the second face of this government’s autocratic tendencies, misinformation. Indeed, the only public news agency in the country (ANA-MPA), which the PM, for his first act in office brought under his own purview, also blindly adopted the account of the Police. The videos taken by witnesses made the rounds in social media, confirming the incidents of extreme violence and brutality beyond any doubt.
We take it upon ourselves to inform you of the situation in Greece because we firmly believe that in those times where Rule of Law is made to recede, it is the duty of us all, whatever the position in which we find ourselves and the responsibilities thrust upon us, to safeguard it with all our might.
It is now evident to all that the Greek government is powerless to preserve the institution of the Police, allowing police officers to act as both judges and executioners in the streets.
We condemn the despotic tendencies betrayed by these incidents, the raw violence and curtailment citizens’ rights and liberties in Greece, all befitting the practices of Erdogan or Orban, we recall the relevant Resolutions1 of the European Parliament.
1 European Parliament resolution of 14 February 2019 on the right to peaceful protest and the proportionate use of force https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-8-2019-0127_EN.html European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2020 on the anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0173_EN.html