Police in Keratea not to blame, minister says

Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Thursday defended the role of the police outside the town of Keratea, southeast of Athens, where residents objecting to the government?s plans to build a landfill in the area have been fighting running battles with riot officers for more than three months, and suggested that it was the role of prosecutors to ensure that offenders are taken to task.

?The police are doing their job and they are doing it with levelheadedness,? Papoutsis said, describing the upheaval in Keratea as ?unprecedented by Greek standards.?

?What is happening [in Keratea] has never happened anywhere else and it is time that the judiciary took action,? he said.

The minister said that the hundreds of riot police officers being deployed in the area since December had received orders to show ?extreme coolheadedness and self-control to avert constant clashes.? But he said the officers were under constant attack by demonstrators and ?faced the daily risk of being burned or injured.?

Papoutsis accused unidentified individuals of perpetuating the upheaval and covering up for crimes being committed by residents, many of whom freely admit to manufacturing firebombs and attacking police officers.

Earlier on Thursday, residents of Keratea closed Lavriou Avenue, which connects Athens with the port of Lavrio, for a second time this week. Rocks and rubble were placed on the road following more overnight clashes between protesters and riot police.

Constantinos Levantis, the mayor of the Lavreotiki area that includes Keratea, on Thursday told Skai Radio that riot police would have to leave the area in order for peace to be restored.

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