Ministry finds nothing suspicious in riot footage

The Citizens? Protection Ministry issued a statement on Saturday saying that a preliminary investigation into footage apparently showing riot police escorting three men wielding iron bars during Tuesday?s unrest in central Athens has not uncovered anything suspicious.

Police came in for heavy criticism over the video, which showed riot police ushering the three men through their ranks to safety in the grounds of Parliament during rioting that occurred 24 hours ahead of serious unrest in the city center.

The footage prompted suggestions that the police had either placed provacateurs within the protesting crowds on Wednesday or that it was offering protection to extreme right-wing protesters who were fighting with leftists.

However, the ministry said that the three men had nothing to do with the police. They were identified as employees of the ETHEL bus company.

The ministry said that a police investigation showed that the men had become trapped in a shopping arcade in central Athens, where they were surrounded by other protesters. Police were called in to guide the men to safety.

The results of the probe are unlikely to dampen criticism of the police?s behaviour during the week. Eleven Greek legal experts working as professors at Greek and international universities issued a statement on Saturday condemning the transformation of the police from ?a body to protect citizens to one that pursues them and represses democratic rights.?