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Greek Police Are Under Investigation for Alledgedly 'Torturing' Teens Last Week

One of them—a 13-year-old boy—was allegedly severely beaten while handcuffed and laying on the ground.
September 24, 2015, 6:00pm

An injury sustained by one of the young people allegedly tortured by Greek police in Athens. Photos by Panagiotis Medi

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.

In front of Athens's Evelpidon courthouse, nine people—most of them minors—stood handcuffed and surrounded by police. You could clearly spot the wounds from their arrest the night before. Broken digits, baton marks on their bodies, smashed teeth, and black eyes. The mass arrest, which took place last Thursday evening, was spurred on by unidentified attackers hurling Molotov cocktails and stones at the police station in Exarcheia, injuring a police officer. Three of the accused were aged between 17 and 19 and the rest were under 17. One of them was only 13 years old.

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On Friday morning, people had gathered outside the prosecutor's building to voice support and show their solidarity. Among them were the detainees' families, who were understandably outraged at the way their kids had been treated. Amidst the protestors, I met Antonia Legaki, a defense lawyer for one of the accused.

"After the attack on the police station, the Delta unit decided to carry out an operation in Exarcheia. There weren't even any Delta teams present at the station during the attack, so they can't possibly have seen the incident, but they were still the ones carrying out all the arrests. They basically pounced on any kid they found in Exarcheia," she said. "These kids have been abused. They were heavily beaten during their arrest. When the police officers handcuffed them, it was almost a form of torture."

She gave me some examples of the brutality: "The 13-year-old boy was handcuffed and laying in the street when four Delta members began beating him with batons. A beating that left him with both of his arms broken. We are talking about a kid who is barely five feet tall and weighs about 40 kilos [90 lbs]. Now one of his arms is in a cast almost up to his shoulder," she explained. "Another example is my 19-year-old client. The police both stepped on his head and beat him with batons in the exact same spot, which only proves that these were 'methodical' beatings. There was clear intent to cause damage. Then, as they lifted him, one of the officers held him up while his colleague ran over his foot with a motorbike, breaking his big toe. They gave another boy a black eye, as you saw, and they broke a girl's hand. They broke the teeth of another minor by pushing the baton into his mouth."

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Annie Paparousou, a lawyer representing one of the arrested, was also at Evelpidon.

"In this case, it's clear to see the unjustified mass arrests of minors. But worse than that is the fact that the defendants have been heavily abused during their arrest. Which means that they have been tortured for no reason. Torture is obviously a crime and the police should be prosecuted. The physical injuries these kids have sustained don't justify the alleged crimes they were arrested for," she said.

Those arrested on Thursday evening were taken to police headquarters before being allowed to go to the hospital. One of the arrested was denied seeing a doctor, seemingly because his injuries were less visible than others. "There isn't one child here who hasn't suffered harm and torture. We are talking about a co-ordinated action by Delta teams that operate in the same way as Latin American 'death squads.' They are trained to act like this," Legaki told me.

The arrests took place in several locations across Exarcheia—a neighborhood famous for being the Greek anarchists' stomping ground. Those arrested didn't even know each other.

"My client is accused of carrying Molotov cocktails in his backpack and throwing them at around 9:15 PM. All he had in his backpack was a map, three books by Brecht, and one by Oscar Wilde," Legaki told me. "He also had the receipt for the books—which was issued at 9:05 PM. So, one moment he was buying books in Amerikis Square, and a few minutes later he was allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails in Kallidromiou Street. That pretty much sums up just how ridiculous the arrests were."

Legaki concluded, "We have asked the prosecutor to investigate the case, to make an indictment and to fully investigate not only the physical injuries, but the accusations of torture as well."

The police's internal affairs bureau has since contacted the lawyers representing the accused to inform them that they're preparing a full case against the officers involved.

On Monday, two of the nine arrestees were told they were free to go. Despite this, they still have to check in at a police station twice a month.