In what critics have decried as a cynical bid to sway public opinion, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought on Monday to link the lynch mob attack by far-right extremists on Saturday against Thessaloniki’s liberal centrist mayor Yiannis Boutaris to opposition New Democracy.
“Who were the ones who applauded the attack against Ioannis Boutaris? Who were the ones that prepared it with violent verbal attacks against him? Who are the ones who unleash, daily, extreme accusations about traitors and Greeks with a reduced national consciousness?” Tsipras told a meeting of his cabinet, referring to what he called a “dark and extreme part of the main opposition party.”
New Democracy shot back, saying that the “political and moral legitimization of violence in Greece has the signature of Alexis Tsipras.”
In a statement, ND said that Tsipras and SYRIZA supported the violent street riots that broke out in Athens in 2008 and that they always justified violence against members of other parties and journalists.
Tsipras and his party, the announcement said, came to power by investing in violence, slander, polarization and toxicity.
“[Tsipras] and his party are trying, even today, to convince citizens that there is good and bad violence,” it said.
The 75-year-old mayor of Greece’s second largest city was attacked by a group of around a dozen far-right extremists during a flag-lowering ceremony honoring Greeks who were killed by the Turks during World War I.
“It was an organized fascist attack,” Boutaris said.
The trial of the three men who were arrested for their part in the attack was deferred from Monday to Tuesday. A fourth suspect who was arrested is 17 years old and was released pending trial before a court for minors.
The three men – two 20-year-olds and a 36-year-old – and the minor have been accused of grievous bodily harm and disturbing the peace.
Meanwhile, a prosecutor has launched an urgent preliminary investigation into the circumstances under which the attack took place and whether incitement was involved.