Police brutality is coming to the fore again in Greece as a Greek citizen filed a lawsuit on Friday against the police anti-terrorism unit, claiming that he had been tortured by police in March. The department has been on the defensive after facing mounting allegations of brutality in Greece in the past months.
Clashes on the streets of Athens, mass protests and growing anger over the country’s prolonged lockdown in March because of police bruatlity led to the arrest of Aris Papazacharioudakis. Arrested and questioned at Athens Police headquarters, also known as GADA, the suit claims he was beaten and tortured by masked officers and threatened with rape.
Papazacharioudakis released photographs and medical reports to the public following the arrest to call out the claim of police brutality within the Athens headquarters back in March.
The office of Michalis Chrysochoidis, the Greek Minister of Public Protection services, issued the following statement: “From the point when Dimitris Papazacharoudakis was arrested, the detainee was informed of his rights as a detainee.”
Papazarachoudakis denied the official announcement — which referred to another person, by the name of Dimitris Papazacharoudakis. “I confirm to the Greek police that Dimitris was not tortured. I was tortured — Aris.”
A similar accusation of torture was made when Papazacharoudakis was previously arrested for vandalism in connection with the office of Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, in February.
The Greek Parliament passed the Chrysochoidis-Keramos bill in February, allowing police to be deployed to university campuses to ensure public safety and stop lawlessness and violence.
The four attorneys representing Zacharoudakis and the other plaintiff, O.M., said in their joint statement “the self-evident claim of criminal prosecution and punishment of the responsible police officers who, in accordance with the practices of the torturers of the dictatorship, inhumanely abused the two arrested.”
The attorneys in the police brutality case are Anna Paparrousou, Ioanna Kurtovic, Costas Papadakis and Thanasis Kampagiannis.
Police Brutality Alleged at Athens Headquarters
The suit is being filed alleges that it is “against police officers who tortured within Athens police headquarters, particularly on the 12th floor, where the anti-terrorism unit is located, signaled for the prosecution and punishment of those responsible police officers by the standards of practice of the torturers during the dictatorship, abused and arrested inhumanely.”
The attorneys held a press conference on Saturday at the Athens Law School. They presented both the legal issues, as well as the political issues, raised by police practice of physical violence and abuse that applies mainly to detainees — whom the authorities treat as political opponents.
Papazacharoudakis was arrested on March 10, charged with attempted murder, the manufacture and possession of explosives, and arson. He was brought before the Athens Public Prosecutor with the charges on March 11.
The former detainee described his arrest as an abduction. Exiting the headquarters of the anarchist collective Masovka, after almost landing on a motorcycle in his path, he heard his name called. Kidnapped by two hooded, black-clad men, he was forced into an unmarked car. They did not reveal their identities and did not explain where he was being taken. He didn’t know if was dealing with the police or hooligans.
He arrived at Athens police headquarters in Ambelokipi. While detained and questioned by police, Papazacharoudakis claimed he was hooded, kicked, beaten, punched and threatened with rape. Officers pressured him to disclose the names of other members of his organization, according to the suit alleging the police brutality and beatings.
Citizen Allegedly Endured Beatings, Threats for Eight Hours
“There was not a point on my body that hadn’t been hit over eight hours. I concluded that they were on the 13th floor when at some point they did not take me down the stairs to the lower floor and I could see a sign that said DAEEB. They were now on the 12th floor and the first round of torture had just ended.
“The second one started by pointing to a window and saying: ‘If you want redemption, no one will stop you. Otherwise, in four days from now you will go to jail for the attempted murder of a police officer and there you will have the opportunity to see how many ‘likes’ you have on your posts,’” Papazacharoudakis said.
A massive demonstration of nearly 6,000 people against police brutality resulted in violent clashes between police and protesters in the Athenian neighborhood of Nea Smyrni in the following days.
Although the protest began peacefully during the day, with older citizens, families, and children involved in the demonstration, as night fell, agitators broke off from the group.