Ex-chief cleared of manslaughter

An appeals court yesterday cleared a former police chief of manslaughter in relation to his personal handling of a botched hostage-release operation in which one of the hostages was fatally injured. The Athens court, by a 3-to-2 majority, overturned a December 2003 lower court decision that gave Athanassios Vassilopoulos a 12-month suspended sentence for the September 1998 operation, which led to the death of Amalia Ginaki, 25. Judges ruled that Vassilopoulos, who ordered officers to storm the Ginaki family home in Kypseli after judging that a hand grenade wielded by hostage taker Sorin Matei, 26, was a fake, carried no blame for the young woman’s death. The initial decision had faulted the former police chief for lack of judgement. Ginaki was fatally injured after the grenade Matei had stuffed into her trousers exploded. Matei was arrested with slight injuries, only to choke to death three days later in a hospital bed where he had been left bound hand and foot and heavily sedated.

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