NEA SMYRNI

Officers involved in violence must be suspended, lawyers’ group says

officers-involved-in-violence-must-be-suspended-lawyers-group-says

A committee representing Greece’s bar associations issued a public statement on Tuesday calling for the exemplary suspension of all the police officers involved in Sunday’s violence at a public square in the Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni.

Relieving the officers of their duties would be “the smallest indication of the state’s zero tolerance for such phenomena,” as well as a means for “preventing similar behavior in the future,” the lawyers.

The announcement comes as judicial and internal investigations are under way after residents of the leafy residential suburb posted video footage on social media on Sunday showing an officer with the DIAS motorcycle squad repeatedly hitting a young man with a collapsible baton during a police crackdown on lockdown violations at a popular neighborhood square.

According to witnesses of the incident, the unnamed DIAS officer allegedly started manhandling the young man after he and a group of others at the park questioned officers for fining the members of two families enjoying the afternoon at the square. Other officers reportedly became involved as the situation escalated.

The coordinating committee of Greek Bar Associations’ plenary said in its announcement on Tuesday that the officers involved in the incident acted “in violation of their legitimate duties.” Their behavior, it added, is an “affront to the people’s democratic beliefs, contradicts the police force’s institutional role and sends the wrong message to society.”

Police officers at the scene of the incident have claimed that they were attacked by a large group of young men while checking whether people hanging out at the square had the proper authorization. 

Investigators are also looking for footage that allegedly proves the DIAS officers’ version of events, according to which they were called in to back up officers who were set upon by a group of around 50 people. 

The 29-year-old seen in the footage that has made the rounds since Sunday was allegedly part of that group and had also been remanded recently over this participation in a rally in support of hunger-striking terrorist Dimitris Koufodinas.

Eleven people were arrested in Nea Smyrni on Sunday.