The trial of four officials of the Stadiou Street Marfin Egnatia Bank branch in central Athens in connection with the death of three employees in a fire caused by protesters in May 2010 began on Wednesday with the testimony of the father of one of the victims.
Facing the three-judge Athens court are the chief executive officer of Marfin at the time, Constantinos Vassilakopoulos, the branch’s head of security, Emmanouil Velonakis, branch manager Anna Vakalopoulou and assistant manager Anastasia Koukou.
They faces charges of negligent homicide after three of the branch’s employees – Angeliki Papathanasopoulou aged 32 and four months pregnant at the time, Paraskevi Zoulia, aged 34, and Epameinondas Tsakalis, 36 – died of suffocation after the building was firebombed by protesters during a violent anti-austerity protest in central Athens on May 5, 2010.
In his opening testimony to the court, Zacharias Papathanasopoulos questioned the adequacy of the bank’s security and safety procedures.
“The bank should have been secured. The front windows had been repeatedly smashed, yet they were never replaced with shatter-proof glass,” Papathanasopoulos said.
He also questioned why the branch had not been closed early on the day of the protest given that authorities had warned that they expected violence and that other businesses in central Athens, including several banks on Stadiou Street, had closed when the rally began.
“Firebombs had been thrown at the branch before and the employees had to put the fires out themselves using whatever means were available to them,” Papathanasopoulos said.
“I believe that what happened is because of the criminal indifference of the bank’s officials,” Papathanasopoulos added. “I demand moral compensation.”
According to reports by firefighters who arrived at the scene and by experts who inspected it later, the three employees had been trying to reach the roof of the building when they became trapped and died of suffocation. The building’s only emergency exit was also found locked by investigators.
“We are being told that [the firebombing] was an act of terrorism, but the other staff and my daughter would have been saved if there had been even one emergency exit that allowed them to get to the roof,” Papathanasopoulos said.