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A 15-year-old Greek student was shot dead by a policeman Saturday evening at 21:50 Standard Greek Time at the Exarchia district, at the center of Greek capital Athens.
Initial reports of the event diverge as to the circumstances of the killing. According to a public statement issued by the Hellenic Police headquarters, the two police guards involved in the incident claim that they were attacked by a group of about 30 people who were throwing objects (water bottles and/or rocks) at them. As the guards approached the crowd on foot to make arrests, they were attacked again and attempted to disperse the crowd using flashbang grenades. Failing that, one of the policemen fired a bullet from his gun, which allegedly ricocheted off a marque and struck the fifteen year old in the chest.
However, there are numerous eyewitness reports contradicting the police guards’ claims. Several eyewitness reports, broadcasted through radio or television or surfaced on greek websites such as Athens Indymedia, claimed that no more than 3 youngsters were involved in the incident and that there were no physical attacks from the side of the youngsters, just an exchange of verbal arguments. No eyewitness verified the policemen’s claims of being attacked by a large crowd and a few confirmed that the 15-year-old was indeed shot in cold blood. Shortly after the incident, Antonia Legaki, a representative of the Committee of Constitutional Rights of the Athens Bar Association, professed that there are at least 3 eyewitnesses attesting to the fact that the policeman’s bullet was shot straight to the young boy’s chest rather that ricocheted. On top of that, a notable report by a female eyewitness broadcast by Mega TV mentioned that after the shooting, both policemen abandoned the scene in their patrol car. The police car was registered with the Exarhia Square police department.
15 minutes after the incident, the 15-year-old was taken by ambulance to Evaggelismos Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Both police guards, as well as the head of the Exarchia police department were put on suspension and a police inquiry about the events was announced.
Almost immediately after issuing a statement condemning the incident and promising to bring those responsible to justice, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, along with his subordinate minister in charge of the police tendered their resignations which prime minister Kostas Karamanlis immediately annuled.
Violent battles between riot squads and anarchists broke out around the streets surrounding the square. In Athens police fired tear gas at hundreds of stone-throwing youths, who went on a rampage as news of the shooting spread. After a lull of a couple of hours, rioting resumed shortly after midnight local time (2200 GMT), with some protesters marching through Athens city centre and others fighting police outside the National Technical University of Athens, the Associated Press news agency reported.
The riotshave also spread to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, where dozens of youths attacked a police precinct, while others blocked a road near the university campus. Riots have been taking place in several other Greek cities as well: Patras, Ioannina, Mytilene, Heraklion