This is our weekly round-up from Greece.
This week the Greek society was shocked as two Mafia-style assassinations occurred within 24-hours and less than two months after veteran reporter Karaivaz’s assassination - all in broad daylight. The escalation is clear. But the Minister of Citizen Protection said we are just developing a “crime-phobia.”
And while the Greek Mafia is enjoying a free ride, the government remains focused on attacking poor people (or students or demonstrators in other cases). It was revealed that Greece purchased and is testing sound cannons against migrants in the North-Eastern Evros border. Plus, Migration Ministry employees have been prohibited to “testify against the State,” facing punishment in case of disobedience.
Finally, artists proceeded in a much-needed move, filing a non-judicial notice of default against Civil Protection Minister Chardalias, who has incriminated music as responsible for the transmission of Covi19.
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The Greek mafia shoots people in café bars and escapes with a taxi.
On Sunday 30 May in the afternoon, 34-year-old Aristides ‘Aris’ Pappas fell dead, after being shot eight times in a café bar in Sepolia by an unknown man. The police are convinced that the motive lies in the rivalry between opposition groups active in the center of Athens. The perpetrator escaped in a taxi. Previously Pappas had been accused of robberies, drug dealing and had spent some time in prison. It has been reported that this was the third attack against him. The Albanian was once stopped by the police in a random check in Omonia square whilst he was driving an electric scooter wearing a bullet-proof jacket. One day later he was shot from inside a taxi in Deligianni square – and he was lightly wounded.
Not even a day after Aristides Pappa’s assassination, on 31 May, known boxer Tassos Berdesis was murdered by unknown assassins, who were driving a black SUV. They had ambushed their victim in Andrea Papandreou street, Vari area (southern Athens). Berdesis was murdered in cold blood before arriving at his training site, a bit before 9 in the morning. Bourdesis name was included in the Greek Police organized crime report with the 500 [499 according to other accounts] Mafia people, which was submitted with Top Greece’s court, Areios Pagos by the Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis. It was reported that the police report includes information by the police Security Department specializing in blackmails on a 2015 case, in which the 39-year-old has been included. The boxer had been found not guilty in this case, however, he was always a “person of interest” for the police.
An interesting thing in Berdesis’s case is that he was reportedly a Menios Fourthiotis’s man. Fourthiotis, a controversial TV presenter and ex-celebrities manager now in remand in prison accused of setting up a criminal gang, has allegedly been implicated in a death contract against Documento newspaper editor Kostas Vaxevanis.
These two assassinations are to be added in the mafia-style assassinations that have lately shocked the public due to their open and brazen approach. There have been six such assassinations since December 2020.
On 9 December 2020, one of the “most notorious” protection racketeers fell dead in broad daylight in the middle of the street, in the Vrilissia area (northern Athens). Two assassins in a black BMW car, wearing full-face disguise had murdered him with 10 bullets. Shortly afterward, the assassins’ car was found burnt out in the Patima Chalandriou area. Among other allegations the 56-year-old victim had been accused in the past of human trafficking, but the case did not continue in court, and he had been involved in the infamous “Assassins Syndicate” case in 1993-1995, regarding Godfathers’ assassinations. The Greek Police and EYP had long been investigating him.
On 9 April 2021, a bit after 2 pm, journalist Giorgos Karaizaz was assassinated outside his house in Alimos, in broad daylight. The two assassins riding a motorbike ambushed him and shot him. No arrests have been made yet.
On 7 May, in Zante town (Zakynthos island), two men wearing full-face covers arrived outside the European Programmes Office, while 54-year-old businessman Dionysis Korfiatis (known as “Dimis”) was there. One of the assassins left their vehicle, walked into the office and shot the businessman with his Kalashnikov, then disappeared. There had been a murder attempt against Korfiatis before in June 2020 by two people on a motorbike. The 54-year-old was only wounded but his 37-year-old wife, however, lost her life from the shooting.
On 16 May, two people on a motorbike approached the 58-year-old boxer and football player nicknamed “Kefalas,” who was outside a mobile street food stand in the Metamorphosis area. They shot him six times at a very close range. The victim was known to the Attika region Security Department specializing in blackmailers. The 58-year old was included in a 2011 paper book as an alleged head of a protection racketeers gang, active in Nea Philadelphia, Nea Chalkidona, and Metamorphosis areas.
There have been 29 death contracts and 24 assassinations since 2017, when this “cycle of blood” within racketeer gangs seems to have opened with Vasilis Grivas’s assassination (May 2017).
None of these cases have been solved. There have been only two arrests, both of them connected with an assassination in Voula, in 2018.
Currently, there are fears that after months-long inaction due to the extended lockdown, some organized crime cruel gangs made a dynamic return at protection racketeering, demanding a greater portion of the lawful profits. The gangs are believed to be trying to empty the streets from hard rivals and people possibly aspiring to become competitors. Authorities are deeply worried, they think this war will escalate as we are getting deeper into the summer and the big nightclubs on the coast, the cosmopolitan islands are opening one after another.
And what does the Ministry of Citizen Protection do? Well, they were very busy setting up plans for University Police and having police officers beating people in squares. But, yeah, on the occasion of the recent assassinations, Chrysochoides emphasized that Greece remains a safe country for its citizens, for tourists and reassured us that the police have undertaken action, intensified checks in places where protection racketeers act. He added that “whoever talks about a Wild West and whoever employs irony referring to bullets and movie titles only to conclude that supposedly we don’t need University Police has not understood a single thing.”
We are all real dummies, Minister. Only, even some policemen seem to agree with us. The Democratic Police Union Movement in a press release clearly attacked the government, stating they verified an unprecedented situation in police stations that do not allow the officers to fulfill their constitutional role and protect the citizens.
On Friday, Chrysochoides defended his (non) work in the Parliament stating that mafia assassinations do not mean that criminality has increased. It is “criminal-phobia” that has increased, he said. He more or less referred to the situation as “normal” as “protection racketeers solve their differences from time to time.”
A fascist state in the making: Sound cannons for migrants - Public employees prohibited from testifying in trials.
On Monday, the Legal Adviser of the State Eleni Pasamichalis sent a circular to the Migration Ministry and its employees. According to this circular, all employees are prohibited from testifying in any trial in favor of the plaintiff and against the Greek state (when a defendant) - as this would constitute “a disciplinary misconduct and a criminal offense.”
According to this document, the employees would only be allowed to testify “to reinforce the Greek State arguments,” and this only “after our office files an in-written request and after reaching an understanding with the person responsible for handling the case.”
The underlying principle of this circular is that the “interests” of the Greek State are above Justice. Hence, in a single piece of paper, the separation of powers, the principle of legality, the independence of Justice, the right to a fair trial, and the obligation of the witness, to tell the truth, are all fiercely violated.
The Legal Counsel of State tried to justify this circular with a press release, calling upon some “non-disclosure” obligation of employees for “state secrets” and on the Employees Code of Conduct. However, it clearly states that they cannot set such limits to citizens and public employees, in contradiction with what Pasamichalis ordered.
SYRIZA brought the issue for discussion in Parliament, filing a relevant Parliamentary Question.
After the fierce reactions, the Migration Ministry issued on Friday a “correction” to the circular, citing that the public employees will be able to testify against the State provided they have taken “the Minister’s approval” to do so (!) At the same time, it confines the employees to testify only in cases relating to asylum requests and only relating to their duties.
The timing of Pasamichalis’s circular raises suspicion. On 11 June 2021, the trial against four of the six teenage migrants accused of burning down Moria Camp will take place on Chios island. The other two teenagers, unaccompanied minors, have already been convicted for arson and were imprisoned. NGOs like Christian Peacemaker Teams have recently called for “a fair and transparent trial for the accused Moria 6 based on the presumption of innocence.” “From the moment of their arrest and before any due process of law, they have been presented to the public as the culprits,” CPT says. “Two co-accused minors were already convicted to prison sentences in March, despite a lack of evidence and a trial riddled with irregularities.” And they conclude: “We are deeply concerned that their right to a fair and just trial based on the presumption of innocence is not guaranteed and that they are instead made scapegoats for the inhumane EU migration policy.”
Speaking of inhumane migration policy, the Associated Press revealed on Monday that Greece plans to use the controversial device “sound cannon” (LRAD) against migrants and refugees at the Evros border with Turkey. “As the world begins to travel again, Europe is sending migrants a loud message: Stay away! Greek border police are firing bursts of deafening noise from an armored truck over the frontier into Turkey. Mounted on the vehicle, the long-range acoustic device, or “sound cannon,” is the size of a small TV set but can match the volume of a jet engine,” Associated Press reported. According to 902 Radio, the Greek Police has obtained two LARD devices.
In a crescendo of hypocrisy, the European Commission has requested official information by Greek authorities on the issue. Because the EU has poured (and continues to pour) an incredibly large amount of money into security tech research.
Human and Digital Rights groups have expressed huge concern on the issue.
Surprisingly, even the Policemen Initiative issued a harsh press release on the matter. Referring to the purchase of the cannons, the statement “congratulates” the Ministry of Citizen Protection and the government. Because “at a time when gangs and the mafia assassinate people in the center of Athens in broad daylight, at a time that ruthless burglars invade citizen’s houses and conduct abominable crimes, at a time when police stations in Attika and in the center of Athens have been teethed out, the government (...) enhances suppression against unarmed citizens.” They clarify that these weapons are targeted against “mothers with children and poor people trying to flee wars” and call on “every colleague to wonder who these contemporary weapons target and who they serve.”
Artists VS Civil Protection Minister.
We have repeatedly referred in this newsletter to measures announced supposedly to protect us against Covid19, measures that however did not make sense as there wasn’t any scientific evidence to support them.
In this context, on Friday 28 May, Civil Protection Minister Nikos Chardalias replied in a strict tone of voice to a journalist’s question on the banning of music in catering facilities. “I am listening to this all the time. Music increases the virus transmission risk - and this has been proven internationally. Music means that when I sing, there will be droplets. Music is connected with dance and thus non-abiding with the measures. Music is connected with alcohol which means relaxation. This rationale of the irrational must stop (...) We cannot discuss such a revolt when the majority is making sacrifices.”
On Tuesday 1 June, the Panhellenic Federation of Visual and Musical Arts sent a Non-Judicial Notice of Default to the Minister, demanding that he provide within three days all scientific evidence supporting his argument that music in outdoor spaces causes over-transmission of the virus. They furthermore accuse him of incriminating Culture.
“It is not the first time that as Deputy Secretary you incriminate music for the transmission of the virus,” they write. One of the examples they cite is that in October, “culture was the only thing that shut down completely, two weeks before the full lockdown and despite the fact that during the summer events, no evidence arose suggesting that open-air events enhance the transmission of the virus. On the contrary, research abroad has shown that, provided health protocols are kept, cultural events are not to be blamed for over-transmission of the virus.”
They emphasize the tremendous financial damage of the artists from banning indiscriminately music from everywhere.
All well put.
Update: Despite reports according to which government plans for University Police have been suspended, the government announced it starts recruiting police officers for the universities.
Greece: EU Commission upgrades border surveillance – and criticizes it at the same time: The Greek border police are using a sound cannon and drones on a new border fence, and the EU Commission expresses its “concern” about this. However, it is itself funding several similar research projects, including a semi-autonomous drone with stealth features for “effective surveillance of borders and migration flows.”
Turkey, Greece look for calm Eastern Mediterranean summer.
Greece expressed dissatisfaction to Germany over its exclusion from Libya Conference.
Rising prices threatening to squeeze out Greeks from real estate.
Rapid price increases in Greece’s supermarkets and fuel.
We Need to Talk About Greece: Why Acknowledging Racism Is The First Step To Fixing It.
Concrete walls and drones - Greek plans for refugee camps decried: Athens is investing in new measures to monitor camps, but experts fear the moves will deepen divides.
Vaccination in migrant camps started only on Thursday. Vaccination in the camps was originally scheduled for mid-May.
Greece, Germany Kick-Off EU Vaccination Travel Certificates.
The Prime Minister and his nephew, the Mayor of Athens, compete in nonsense: PM Mitsotakis announced a 70-km-long recreation path for bikers and pedestrians from Piraeus to Cape Sounio along the Athens Riviera. For whoever knows this route, this announcement is at least laughable for all the practical reasons relating to physical and constructed obstacles to the plan. The Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis on the other hand installed four metal devices downtown Athens to clean polluted air. Each is supposed to clean the air as if 30 trees existed there. In a heavily cemented city like Athens, Bakoyannis chose to plant four metal devices instead of 120 trees. Applaud.
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