The trial over the killing of prominent LGBTQ Zak Kostopoulos, who was beaten to death in Athens on September 21, 2018 begins in Athens on Wednesday.
Six people will appear in court in a trial seen as important for gay rights in Greece. Among them are four police officers, who face up to 10 years in prison for the violent death of Kostopoulos in central Athens.
Kostopoulos, known by his artistic name “Zak / Zackie Oh”, was an HIV-positive drag queen and advocate for the rights of LGBTQ and other HIV-positive people.
The attack caught on camera shows Kostopoulos trying to break free from a locked jewelry store by smashing the store’s glass door with a fire extinguisher. It is unclear how and why he entered the store.
It then shows him attempting to crawl out of the store through an opening in the glass while two men, including the owner of the jewelry store, can be seen repeatedly kicking him.
After laying on the ground, injured, with a crowd surrounding him, the beaten man then stumbles away before being surrounded by police, who appear to forcefully handcuff him.
Believing him to be a burglar, police officers arriving at the scene also beat and handcuffed him as he lay bleeding on the pavement, the video showed. He was pronounced dead a few hours later at the hospital.
Zak Kostopoulos death described as lynching
Amnesty International described Kostopoulos’ death as a “lynching” and “assassination” and pointed to homophobic bias in some of the early Greek media reports about the case.
And in a statement Tuesday, Amnesty denounced the “stigmatization, the prejudice and the hateful rhetoric” with which Kostopoulos and his family “have often been confronted, even after Zak’s death”.
Zak Kostopoulos was born in the US in 1985 to Greek immigrants; he came to Greece at the age of seven, then went abroad again and returned.
He studied acting and marketing. He Worked at the “Athens Check Point”, and volunteered at Positive Voice (an association of HIV-positive people in Greece), while writing articles on the internet and in newspapers for issues related to human rights, sexuality and HIV.
He was also the president of the Homosexual Lesbian Community of Greece (OLKE). In the municipal elections of 2014, he was a candidate for municipal councilor of Athens with the combination “P.N.OIKA”.
Kostopoulos was buried in the town of Kirra where he grew up. Since 2018, people have organized yearly marches in Athens to commemorate Kostopoulos’ death and call for justice against his killers. The slogan “Zackie lives, smash the Nazis” (which rhymes in Greek) was chanted at events across the country.