Mayor defends grave decision

Controversy was still raging Tuesday over attempts to establish a cemetery in the southern Athens suburb of Glyfada, which the Environment Ministry has declared illegal for being built in a restricted area.

Reports on Monday said the Municipality of Glyfada and local church leaders had worked together to take over a plot of land inside Zone A of Mount Hymettus — which is protected by environmental regulations — so they could turn it into a graveyard.

Photos of the site showed a prefabricated chapel and some tombstones.

Glyfada Mayor Constantinos Kokkoris has said eight burials have already been conducted at the site, prompting a reaction from the Environment Ministry. On Saturday, he was briefly detained and the case has been referred to the courts.

No charges have been pressed against Bishop Pavlos of Glyfada, who is said to have cooperated with the mayor.

First instance prosecutor Eleni Raikou has launched a probe to establish whether the municipality broke any laws. She is expected to issue a report Wednesday.

Speaking to Kathimerini Tuesday, Margarita Karavasili, special secretary for the Environment and Energy Inspectorate, slammed the mayor for acting without permission from environmental and church construction authorities.

?The area has been burned down two or three times and has for years been eyed by land-grabbers. In the end it was appropriated by the municipality,? she said.

The mayor defended his actions, saying the move was necessary because of space shortage.

?We already have nine bodies in cold storage waiting to be buried. The [existing] cemetery contains 800 graves, half of which contain two bodies,? Kokkoris said.

Two burials scheduled for yesterday were not carried out.