Thirteen years ago hooded demonstrators set fire to a branch of Marfin Bank in central Athens killing three people—and the culprits are still at large.
“We do not forget the fellow citizens we lost. Punishing the guilty remains a debt of honor for the state, closing the door every day to division, hatred, and political hypocrisy,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday.
“We only look back to remember and learn. So that we can move forward united. For the Greece we want and deserve,” he said.
It was May 5, 2010, when inside the Greek Parliament, the government was about to vote for the bailout deal that would send Greece into a deep recession, resulting in a socio-economic crisis that lasted for ten years.
Meanwhile, out in the streets of central Athens, several thousands of people marched in protest against the austerity measures that were about to hit Greek society.
Panepistimiou and Stadiou Streets, which lead to the parliament building across Syntagma Square, were flooded with people carrying placards and shouting slogans.
The anger of the people was directed toward the government for agreeing to sign the bailout deal between Greece, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Hooded attackers set fire to Marfin Bank
As the main body of marchers reached the point on Stadiou Street where the Marfin Bank branch stood, unknown assailants wearing hoods broke into the bank and began hurling Molotov cocktails inside it.
Bank employees and customers who were trapped in the bank began screaming for help. Within minutes, the entire bank was engulfed in flames while fumes and smoke forced four employees to go out on the small balconies on the bank’s second floor.
The fire trucks that attempted to approach the bank were blocked by hooded men while many protesters shouted “Burn!” at the victims.
The fire was extinguished after some time, but it was already too late for three employees who suffocated from smoke inhalation. One of them was a pregnant woman.
The police investigation on the fatal arson that destroyed the bank branch and the adjacent movie theaters, Attikon and Apollon, proved fruitless.
At the same time, other perpetrators threw Molotov cocktails at the Ianos bookstore across the street from the Marfin Bank. The store was also destroyed by the fire, but since it was closed, there were no casualties.
The anonymous letter and trial
A trial was held two days prior to the first anniversary of the Marfin Bank arson after police had received an anonymous letter naming three possible perpetrators of the attack.
In addition to their identities, the letter included their mobile phone numbers and the registration numbers of their vehicles.
Eventually, two of the three men were taken to court. Theodoros Sipsas was charged with premeditated homicide by the use of explosives, as well as conspiracy to commit destructive acts.
Sipsas told the court “I went to help and now they accuse me of a crime that I have not committed and, in fact, it is so serious.”
The second accused man, Pavlos Andreev, faced the same charges and told the court that he hoped the perpetrators of the Marfin Bank arson would be found and brought to justice.
The two defendants were acquitted unanimously by the court in the trial, which ended in October of 2016.
Marfin Bank convicted for lack of fire safety measures
The Marfin Bank CEO, the security manager of the building, and the bank branch manager were all convicted for a lack of firefighting equipment and overall lack of fire safety measures in the building.
The negligence led to the three deaths, as well as the injuries of 21 employees. The Marfin CEO and the safety manager were sentenced to 22 years imprisonment and the branch manager to five years.
As it later became known, the bank employees were in the building on the day of the general strike for fear that they would otherwise be dismissed.
New investigation begins eleven years later
The Marfin Bank arson file was opened once again in 2021 after a special State Security detail began a new investigation using state-of-the-art technology.
New evidence and testimonies regarding four individuals who belong to the anti-authoritarian fringe indicate that they indeed were involved in the deadly attack.
The analysis of audiovisual material from the events of that day, along with new, critical testimonies from the protagonists of the arson, indicate that a group of people that belong to the anarchist fringe projected the firebombs into the bank.
Two arson attacks on Amalias Avenue and Syggrou Avenue only a few minutes after the deadly fire at the Marfin Bank branch indicate that there was an organized plan.
Still, 13 years after the event that still haunts Greece, no-one has been convicted of the crime.