COMMENT

Bloody streets

By Pantelis Boukalas

November 1980. New Democracy in power. Mass demonstrations. Stamatina Kanellopoulou, aged 21, is bludgeoned to death by a policeman's baton. Cypriot student Iakovos Koumis, 26, is killed by a bullet. The promised «exhaustive investigation» and «exemplary punishment of the guilty parties» were nothing but empty words. The guilty parties were never found, and the country's security forces got the message that they enjoyed impunity. November 1985. PASOK in power. Exarchia. Police officer Athanasios Melistas kills Michalis Kaltezas, shooting the 15-year-old in the back of the head. Minister Menios Koutsogiorgas submits his resignation, as a formality, but it is not accepted by Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. Melistas is convicted by the first instance court to two-and-a-half years in prison with the possibility of parole and is subsequently found innocent on appeal. Once again, impunity is the message that is conveyed. December 2008. Exarchia. A special guard, nicknamed «Rambo,» kills Alexandros Grigoropoulos. The bullet hits the 15-year-old in the chest. Eyewitnesses say the policeman executed the young man in cold blood following a quite ordinary verbal exchange, and immediately left with his colleague, as the boy lay dying. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and his deputy submit their resignations, as a formality. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis does not accept them. Students stunned by the murder of their comrade express their rage. They go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and lay down flowers and books. Among the books, someone may have left a copy of the Constitution, with two sections underlined: Article 2.1, which says that respect for and protection of the individual are the state's primary obligation, and Article 5.2, which says that all persons living within Greek territory shall enjoy full protection of their life, honor and liberty. This «all persons» has been underlined by students, with blood.

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