Κυριακή 14 Απριλίου 2024
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Seven policemen implicated in killing of 18-year-old Roma deny manslaughter charges, released from custody

Seven policemen implicated in killing of 18-year-old Roma deny manslaughter charges, released from custody

In this incident, SYRIZA has accused the government of an attempted cover-up and of trying to influence the judiciary with moves like Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos’ unusual decision to visit the seven policemen who were remanded in custody to “boost their morale”, as he wrote on his Facebook wall.

The seven policemen who on motorcycles chased and then shot dead an unarmed 18-year-old Roma who was one of three passengers in a stolen car, Nikos Sambanis, denied the voluntary manslaughter charges against them in a marathon interrogation before an investigating magistrate today.

They were released from custody shortly before midnight tonight.

The killing of Sambanis, who was the father of two and whose wife was pregnant, triggered several violent protests by Roma communities demanding justice, including a blockade of the Corinth-Patras national highway.

The shooting – with 38 bullets in a populated area – occurred in the Piraeus suburb of Perama, where there is a large Roma community.

The killing spurred an intense public debate over the marked increase in police violence, over which main opposition SYRIZA has long accused the government.

In this incident, SYRIZA has accused the government of an attempted cover-up and of trying to influence the judiciary with moves like Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos’ unusual decision to visit the seven policemen who were remanded in custody to “boost their morale”, as he wrote on his Facebook wall.

Former SYRIZA minister Christos Spirtzis suggested that the incident was a racist attack as in the communications of the officers with police operational headquarters they stated that the passengers of the stolen white Hyundai were Roma.

Spirtzis charged that the government has tolerated the predominance of far right groups of policemen in the force that act unchecked.

He also charged that during New Democracy’s three years in power there was an extraordinary hiring of 4,500 special guards based on their political orientation who have been deployed without proper training.

Denying all charges

The seven policemen, who are represented by one of Greece top criminal lawyers, Alexis Kouyas, in their lengthy written defences denied the charges and maintained that they had no homicidal intentions and never intended to open fire against the passengers in the automobile.

A police lieutenant in the DIAS motorcycle policing units that conducted the chase maintained that the shooting was in line with the terms of a 2003 law and claimed that the driver of the stolen vehicle attacked the chase team by trying to ram their motorcycles.

That contention was not confirmed by the transcript of their communications with the operational centre, in which one of the officers said they were all unharmed, or by audio recordings made by eyewitnesses.

Indeed, the operational centre had instructed the officers to cease their chase.

The lieutenant stated that despite the policemen’s call to passengers to stop the vehicle for a check, the driver of the car (not Sambanis) built up speed in reverse, ramming three of the motorcycles and injuring the policemen with the intention of killing them in order to avoid his arrest.

14-year-old passenger turns himself in

The investigating magistrate also interrogated the 14-year-old who was in the car and escaped arrest. He maintained that he was the driver of the car, and not Sambanis, which indicates that police shot dead a passenger and not the driver who they claimed wanted to kill them.

Earlier, he had told journalists that the moment he stopped the vehicle the policemen started shooting and that is why they attempted to escape.

“I was the driver of the car. The only thing I tried to do was to get away from the policemen and I had no intention of harming them. However, when a bus blocked our path I got nervous and lost my composure. The only thing we wanted was to get away. That is why I dragged along the parked motorcycles of the policeman after they had gotten off them. When the police started shooting we raised our hands high,” he told reporters.

Both the 14-year old and the third passenger in the automobile, also a minor, have been released from custody.

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Κυριακή 14 Απριλίου 2024