Greek PM proposes police reform after violent street clashes

Greek PM proposes police reform after violent street clashes

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis proposed on Friday reforms of the police amid accusations of heavy-handed police tactics to quash street protests against government policies.

The beating of a man by police during checks for compliance with Covid-19 restrictions and subsequent clashes with protesters have revived memories of violence during the country’s decade-long debt crisis.

Greek authorities are investigating complaints of police violence and one officer has been suspended. During clashes on Tuesday, another officer was seriously injured.

The leader of the leftist SYRIZA party Alexis Tsipras accused Mitsotakis, a conservative, of seeking a police state and of trying to divert attention from “blatant failure” to deal with the pandemic, with many areas of Greece still in lockdown.

“You are beating the young generation at universities in the morning and at parks in the evening,” Tsipras said. “You have the audacity to claim that protests are the reason for the course of the pandemic.”

In response, Mitsotakis condemned the beatings and accused SYRIZA of stirring up the protests, saying police brutality was a global issue and that Greece did not have a bad record.

Mitsotakis proposed that police officers carry body cameras as well as improved training and psychometric tests for new police recruits.

Protests often turn violent in Greece, which is emerging from a deep financial and social crisis and has been long criticised by rights groups for heavy-handed police tactics.

An ombudsman said this week complaints of police brutality had been on the rise as frustration has grown after a year of Covid-19 restrictions.

Greece is bracing for possible further protests amid concerns over the condition of Dimitris Koufodinas, a leftist militant serving multiple life sentences for murder who has been on hunger strike for more than two months.

Authorities fear his death would ignite renewed street violence. [Reuters]

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