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Greek Immigrant in Germany Giorgos Zantiotis Dies in Police Custody

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Greek immigrant in Germany Giorgos Zantiotis died while in police custody in Wuppertal, Germany. Credit: Henning Schlottmann/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Greeks in Germany are searching for answers after the death of immigrant Giorgos Zantiotis while in police custody in the city of Wuppertal, in western Germany.

The cause of death for the man, who was only 25 years of age, is not yet known, and the mystery surrounding his death has caused the hashtag #GiorgouZantioti to trend on Twitter amongst Greeks, particularity those living in Germany.

The man’s body has not yet been handed over to his family in the full week since his death on November 2, and the coroner has not yet released any report containing the details of his passing.

Zantiotis’ sister, Maria, recently described the experience while speaking on the ALPHA television channel:

“I’m trying to get some answers and I’m not having any success. For so many days they haven’t even allowed us to see my brother, nor give him a funeral. He’s in a freezer by himself, and we can’t even say our final goodbyes. I feel like my hands are tied. I want to learn what really happened.”

Cause of Giorgos Zantiotis’ death not yet known

Zantiotis worked with his mother at a gyro shop in the city of Wuppertal before his death.

His family have stated that the young Greek immigrant faced some health problems, and had placed an intragastric balloon in his stomach to aid in weight loss. Some contend that if Zantiotis had been hit or physically attacked, it could have caused his death due to his health issues.

A video of the man’s arrest circulated on Twitter, showing Zantiotis, lying prone on the street, being taken into custody by German police officers while his sister told them to stop because he had recently had surgery.

The local prosecutor stated that police were called to the scene after a taxi driver called authorities stating that he had seen two siblings arguing and that one was hurt.

Theories swirl surrounding death of Greek immigrant in Germany

German police claim that Zantiotis tried to tackle a policewoman to the ground and that he resisted his arrest, injuring two officers in the process. According to the statement provided by local police, forces on the scene had to wait for backup to arrive in order to bring the Greek immigrant into custody.

Upon taking him to the station, police claimed that they suspected Zantiotis was under the influence of drugs, so they took a blood sample from him. They claim that he then suddenly passed out, and attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Despite this, some theories have circulated amongst local community members, as well as social media users, that Zantiotis, who had recently had surgery, passed away after being subjected to violence in the police station.

Activists have taken to the streets to demonstrate in solidarity with Zantiotis. They claim that he is the sixth person to die in police custody in Germany this year.

Maria, the deceased man’s sister, still has many questions regarding her brother’s death.

“I want to learn what happened to him during those two hours from when they split us up to when he died at the police station…Why did they only tell me that there were no external injuries? Why did the press office only inform the media six days after (his death)? Why did the incident remain hidden for so many days? Why didn’t they take him with me to the hospital? Where are my brother’s pants and shirt?”

Wuppertal’s authorities deny the allegations of police brutality, and state that his death was likely due to “an underlying health condition combined with the consumption of drugs.”

The Greek Embassy in Berlin, as well as the Consulate General in Dusseldorf, Germany have stated that they are in contact with Zantiotis’ family and will offer them consular assistance throughout the difficult time.

“The Greek authorities in Germany are in contact with the appropriate German authorities, and it is expected that they will complete the investigation,” a statement from the Greek Embassy reads.


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