NEWS

Probe into Thessaloniki arrest

A Supreme Court prosecutor yesterday ordered an investigation into claims that a Briton held in pre-trial custody since his arrest after the June 21 anti-EU riots in Thessaloniki was framed by police. This followed the publication of photographs that appeared to show police had switched a bag belonging to Simon Chapman for another that contained petrol bombs. Chapman is currently on the 42nd day of a hunger strike to demand his release on bail. Another four of the seven men arrested after the riots – that caused over a million euros in damage to shops, banks and cars as European Union leaders held a summit in Halkidiki – are on hunger strike. The strikers, Chapman, two Spaniards, a Syrian and a Greek, deny all charges and have been refusing food for 38-55 days. Already in poor health, they were moved from Salonica to the Athens Korydallos Prison last week, to allow treatment at the prison hospital. Yesterday, Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos denied claims by human rights groups, lawyers and hospital doctors that the suspects had been mistreated and prevented from contacting their lawyers or relatives. He said the ministry could only ask judicial authorities to speed up their handling of the prosecution. «I have already begged judicial authorities and prosecutors to ensure there is no delay,» he said. Government spokesman Christos Protopapas said that «great care is being displayed regarding the suspects’ health,» and promised that if allegations of a police stitch-up are confirmed «justice will be done.» He said authorities are looking into requests for the suspects’ release on bail. Anti-globalization and human rights activists will hold a protest march at 6.30 p.m. today through central Athens to demand the release of the «Thessaloniki Seven.»