Security dispute unsettles government

A new wave of tension threatens to undermine the government after a group of SYRIZA MPs submitted a proposal to scrap legislation that applies stiffer sentences to people found guilty of committing offenses while having their faces covered, the so-called hoodies law, and making it harder for authorities to obtain DNA samples from suspects.

The proposal by 28 SYRIZA MPs is for an amendment to a bill that aims to decongest Greek jails, abolish high-security prisons and allow the early release of seriously disabled detainees. The move led to a tense session in Parliament Monday, with opposition lawmakers accusing the government of showing favoritism toward terrorists.

SYRIZA’S coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, indicated that they would back the bill overall but not all of the provisions. Meanwhile PASOK accused the government of being influenced by the climate created by recent sit-ins, notably a seven-day occupation of the main building of Athens University.

New Democracy’s former Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias condemned the proposed amendment as “favoring terrorists and criminals.”

The strongest criticism came from the regional governor for central Greece, Costas Bakoyannis, whose father Pavlos Bakoyannis, was a victim of the now disbanded November 17 terrorist group. “For the first time ever we have a government which negotiates and converses with terrorists without shame,” he said.

According to the proposal put forward by the SYRIZA MPs, the hoodies law, which was introduced several years ago following a spate of attacks in central Athens by self-styled anarchists wearing hoods and face masks, is unjustifiable as you cannot punish someone for merely wearing a scarf as the wearer might be doing so for health reasons, such as trying to protect themselves from tear gas. As for a current law allowing police to take suspects’ DNA samples against their will, the MPs indicated that it violates citizens’ constitutional rights.

Meanwhile, comments by Alternate Minister for Citizens’ Protection Yiannis Panousis on Monday highlighted a rift within the government on matters of public order, sit-ins and protests. “Developments confirm my point of view, namely that there can be no end to the issue of sit-ins if it continues to be managed as it is today,” he told a joint press conference with Attica Governor Rena Dourou on regional policing. He warned that ongoing protests at the Skouries gold mine in northern Greece could lead to someone being killed. “We’re going to see deaths in Skouries,” Panousis said as miners continued protests following a day of tensions on Sunday when supporters and opponents of a local mining project clashed.

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