NEWS

Arrests over Skouries gold mine protests fuel reprisals against police

Two residents of the village of Ierissos in Halkidiki, northern Greece, who are alleged to have been involved in an arson attack on a controversial mining project in the area, were detained on Wednesday amid furious protests by fellow villagers who raided and set fire to their local police precinct, prompting another political clash over the contentious venture.

With tensions in the area over the project showing no signs of abating, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias insisted that the law would be enforced, issuing a warning to residents of “unruly villages” that attempts to take the law into their own hands would not be tolerated.

For its part, the main leftist opposition SYRIZA party accused the government of using “heavy-handed and despotic tactics” in a bid to crush local residents’ protests against the mine in nearby Skouries which is run by the firm Hellas Gold. SYRIZA’s comments prompted a harsh response from conservative New Democracy, which said the statement “confirms in the most categorical way that it armed those who burned properties and tried to burn fellow citizens alive,” a reference to an arson attack on the Skouries mine in February when security guards were tied up and doused with petrol.

The exchange of barbs came several hours after a dawn raid by police on two houses in Ierissos which led to the arrest of two men, aged 33 and 44, who are alleged to have taken part in the February raid. According to witnesses, the officers broke down the doors of the suspects’ homes.

News of the arrests propelled a large group of local residents to gather at the village’s central square before heading to the local police precinct, which they raided, dragging out office furniture and computers that they torched in the road. Police had evacuated the precinct earlier, according to sources.

The two suspects were granted an extension to prepare their defense and are to face a magistrate in Thessaloniki on Sunday. They are to remain in custody until then.

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