NEWS

In Brief

TRAM DISPUTE

Forest Authority officials face court over felling of trees along coastline A prosecutor yesterday launched legal proceedings against state Forest Authority officials for allegedly issuing illegal licenses to fell trees in Palaio Faliron as part of the ongoing construction of a tramline. Mayor of the coastal suburb, Dionysis Hadzidakis, and a group of environmentalists – who instigated the suit – claim the felling of 260 trees along coastal Poseidonos Avenue is illegal as the environmental study which led to the works being approved stated the trees would not be touched. The company in charge of building the tramline had told the Council of State it would only fell 26 trees. COCAINE SMUGGLERS Trial of seven Greeks implicated in 8-ton haul is postponed until June An Athens appeals court yesterday postponed, until June 23, the trial of seven Greeks allegedly implicated in the smuggling of 8 tons of cocaine to Greece from Venezuala aboard a cargo ship two and a half years ago. Greek and foreign police forces worked together to track down the seven men, who were arrested in August 2000. Suspected ringleader Ilias Laimos, 55, is the only one of the group in custody following his arrest in France and subsequent extradition to Greece. The others, including Laimos’s brother Yiannis, have been free since February when their 18-month pretrial detention period elapsed. The trial was postponed due to the absence of defense counsel. TAXIS ‘No more strikes this year’ Attica taxi drivers have postponed further strike action until the new year to allow for a review of new legislation they object to. During a press conference yesterday, unionists expressed their opposition to the proposed establishment of taxi companies, saying this would be «something alien to their profession» and said that cars with engines of up to 1,900cc should be only withdrawn from circulation after 12 years (as opposed to the eight years proposed in reforms). Taxi drivers also object to plans to penalize them for mistreating clients and want access to Athens bus lanes and the right to charge higher fares. Insurance suit The Quality of Life Consumer Union (EKPOIZO) yesterday filed collective suits against insurance company European Reliance for raising its health and hospital cover premiums by between 70 and 90 percent. The suits are based on a Supreme Court ruling annulling a contract term by which an insurance firm could unilaterally increase premiums. EKPOIZO is calling on European Reliance, which claims to have sought the increases because of rises in hospital treatment costs, to make up for losses resulting from premium rises imposed in previous years. Immunity debate Opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday told Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis he would back a crackdown on deputies abusing their parliamentary immunity. The two men agreed that a distinction needs to be made between alleged offenses relating to an MP’s political activities and others which they should be obliged to justify separately. Last month, Parliament voted against lifting the immunity of ND MP Athanassios Katsiyiannis, accused of the murder of a boy who died when a building the MP was responsible for constructing collapsed during the 1999 Athens earthquake. Olympics policing A Franco-Greek police training program, focusing on enhancing security for the Olympic Games, ends this Friday. A French police team last month worked with Greek police and coast guard officials in dealing with potential terrorist attacks, freeing hostages and dealing with snipers. The cooperation will resume in April with simulated responses to potential aircraft hijackings. All Olympics security staff will receive a monthly bonus retroactively from January, following a government decision made public yesterday. The bonus ranges from 375 euros to 1,050 euros, according to rank. Prefect exonerated Thessaloniki Prefect Costas Papadopoulos has been cleared of charges that he violated his duties by allowing the continued operation of schools built using asbestos – exposure to which can cause cancer. Papadopoulos channeled all available funds to relocate schools built with asbestos to safer premises, according to a ruling by a panel of Thessaloniki judges made public yesterday.