Just a few hours after Council of State judges in Athens issued a statement concerning an attack by the Rouvikonas anti-establishment group on the Athens premises of the country’s highest administrative court, judges at a misdemeanors court in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, released three of the men who attacked the city’s mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, last weekend.
You may wonder what these two events have in common, so let’s take it from the top: In Athens, the Council of State judges stated that “vacuums created by the weakening of democratic institutions, among which is the justice system, are filled by raw violence that is reminiscent of primitive societies.” In Thessaloniki, the two 20-year-old attackers received suspended sentences of 14 and 21 months, while the 36-year-old was given a 14-month prison term that he can buy off for a fee of 5 euros a day because he has no prior criminal record. To cut a long story short, all three were released and now roam free. Reading any full account of the issue is simply mortifying. Boutaris told the court about the nightmare of what was essentially a lynch mob attack, adding that he had heart surgery just two days before to have a stent implanted and was “afraid that I would die on the spot.”
After putting on a big show of aggression and bravado outside the courthouse, the three attackers shed crocodile tears once they were inside, begging for forgiveness and presenting the most moronic explanations for their actions imaginable. One said he was not targeting the mayor, but had torn a windshield wiper off a car to smash his vehicle; another said he didn’t know who he was hitting. The court’s decision was pathetic and the three men were allowed to walk away without having to face any real consequences for their actions. They walked away looking sheepish and tearful, like the outcasts of a cruel society that pushed them into attacking a man on the ground with their fists and feet – cowards shorn of their pretensions of fierceness, the most dangerous kind. They came out claiming to have been led astray and are now free to return to action unpunished and even more uncontrollable, perhaps slightly cautious, but not in the least bit repentant.
The events that unfolded in Athens and Thessaloniki these past few days will leave a mark and will have an effect. Darkness is not something that just spreads, it also becomes deeper and more prevalent, it exercises pull and influence when it is treated like a guilty secret. And tolerance legitimizes violence.
The Council of State judges were correct: The vacuum of justice is being filled by raw violence. The problem is that less than 24 hours later, the decision of another court made the Council of State’s statement sound like a school principal’s reprimand for inappropriate behavior, when murder has already been committed.