Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras accused each other of sowing division for political gain in the aftermath of an incident of police brutality in a suburb of Athens last Tuesday, during a debate in Parliament on Friday.
The debate was sparked after a police officer was accused of hitting a citizen repeatedly with a collapsible baton, without due cause, during routine checks on compliance with Covid-19 restrictions in the main square of Nea Smyrni. Footage of the beating went viral on social media, sparking public outrage. Greek Police (ELAS) has ordered an internal investigation over the incident, while the officer involved has been suspended.
Mitsotakis described the officer’s behavior as “unacceptable” and confirmed reports that he has been suspended pending an investigation into the attack.
“I unequivocally condemn it, regardless of what preceded or what followed. A police officer must exercise restraint and follow the rules even when insulted and harassed,” he told lawmakers.
He added that “we all shuddered at the attempted murder” of the police officer who was beaten repeatedly on the head in a protest march against Tuesday’s violence the next day.
Mitsotakis then accused Tsipras of hypocrisy in his response to the incident and of fuelling street protests. “Citizens understand who is investing in the idea of unity and who is stoking social tensions,” he said.
In his response, Tsipras accused the premier “of choosing tension and division” as his main strategy and losing control of the pandemic.
He expressed his support for all the citizens that have suffered police violence and wished a speedy recovery to the policeman who was beaten by hooligans in Nea Smyrni.
These were “heinous incidents that cannot be tolerated by any democratic citizen,” he continued, adding that it is the responsibility of the state and the government to guarantee social peace.