A Greek court on Monday sent three anti-vaxxers to jail after they allegedly handcuffed and abducted a high school principal over virus restrictions in the town of Katerini, northern Greece last week.
The three will remain in custody until their trial. They were part of a larger group of vigilantes that stormed the high school and assaulted the headmaster, accusing him of enforcing what they called “unconstitutional” measures against Covid.
The court released another eight suspects on condition that they present themselves regularly at a local police station, keep at least 400 meters (yards) away from schools and stay in the country.
Police said a group of people grabbed and handcuffed the 61-year-old principal ahead of a daily COVID-19 entry check of students at the school, and forced him into a car. They drove him to a police precinct, where they invited the authorities to charge him with ostensibly breaching constitutional freedoms.
Instead, police detained the suspected vigilantes. No trial date has been set.
Anti-vaxxers have “reached a level of perfect absurdity”
The unprecedented incident carried out by members of the self-proclaimed group “Guardians of the Constitution” was condemned by the Minister of Citizen Protection Takis Theodorikakos, who said: “Such behaviors are provocative and unacceptable and the Police should not allow their recurrence.”
The group has created several pages on Facebook to circulate anti-vaxxer content and videos with nationalist rhetoric.
“We have reached a level of perfect absurdity. People breaking the law are arresting a Greek citizen and bringing him to the police,” Anastasios Manolas, a local mayor, told Skai.
In another highly publicized incident in September, a 37-year old anti-vaxxer father in a Thessaloniki suburb assaulted his son’s female school principal for asking for the unvaccinated child’s self-test results before allowing him to enter school premises.
Ioannis Sarigiannidis, who is a Covid denier, reportedly pushed the principal hard and prevented the other children from entering the schoolyard after she asked for the child’s rapid test results, as Greek law requires.
The anti-vaccination cohort is relatively large in Greece, where polls show that almost one in four Greeks either refuse vaccinations, are scared, or simply don’t believe the pandemic is real.
In the first weeks of September, several demonstrations against the vaccination have been organized in major Greek cities, with thousands of people shouting “fake news” slogans and sporadically even clashing with police forces.