NEWS

Hate crime trial opens in Greece

Two men and one woman were to go on trial on Monday charged with attacking a 24-year-old Afghan asylum seeker in Athens earlier this year.

The three are accused of brutally beating and stabbing Ali Rahimi on September 16, in what Human Right Watch Monday described as a ?sobering reminder of increasing racist violence? in the country.

They were allegedly part of a larger group of about 15 people who encircled Rahimi and two other Afghans before assaulting them in the central Athens neighborhood of Aghios Panteleimonas, where racial tensions have been running high over the past couple of years due to some residents and extremist opposing the large presence of immigrants.

?The prosecution of this vicious attack sends an important message, but it is the tip of the iceberg,? said Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch on Monday. ?If the authorities responded properly to racist violence, this trial would be one of many instead of a rarity,? Sunderland added.

According to the organization, the Pakistani Community of Greece documented attacks on 60 Pakistani men in the first three months of 2011. In April, a large group of people allegedly attacked the Somali community center, injuring 10 Somalis and destroying the center.

And in May, a man from Bangladesh was found dead after foreign immigrants were accused of killing a Greek man in central Athens. But the circumstances surrounding his death have not been determined.

Rahimi, the victim of the September 16 attack, was hit on the head with a bottle and stabbed in the chest and back, HRW said. Two more Afghan men managed to flee, and one later identified two of the alleged suspects to the police, it said.

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