NEWS

Prison staff slammed

Following Sunday’s daring escape of two convicts from Athens’ Korydallos prison on board a hijacked helicopter, Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras suspended yesterday the prison governor and three guards on duty and ordered an investigation into the incident. Papaligouras also said that extra measures will be introduced to help avoid a repeat of the aerial escape that has stunned Greek authorities despite having undergone extensive security training for the Olympic Games. «I consider that there was a lack of competence and professionalism shown by those in charge of Korydallos,» Papaligouras said. The governor had only recently taken on the position after his predecessor was charged with homicide through neglect last week over a cell blaze that killed three inmates. Five more guards from Korydallos will also be transferred to other duties, the minister added. On Sunday, two men allegedly hijacked a helicopter they had hired for an aerial tour of Athens and forced the pilot at gunpoint to fly to the prison. Police are examining whether one of the men was wanted bank robber Nikos Palaiocostas. The pair are then said to have thrown smoke flares, to cause confusion in the jail courtyard, and hovered low to the ground in order to pick up Palaiocostas’s brother, Vassilis, and Albanian Alket Rizai aged 40 and 32 respectively. According to police, the helicopter then flew to a nearby cemetery where they escaped on two motorbikes, leaving the pilot unharmed. Police have launched a massive manhunt for the suspects, monitoring all exits from Athens by road and by sea. The incident has left the government red-faced as officials lay blame on each other. «Of course the guards could have used their guns, there is this ability,» said Papaligouras, responding to questions as to why the guards did not shoot down the helicopter. The Panhellenic Federation of Guards reacted by saying that it is against the law for a guard to use his weapon if he is not being attacked. Nikos Palaiocostas, the person seen as having organized the bold escape, is one of the most wanted men in Greece. He has been convicted for bank robberies and kidnappings and is also the only Greek to feature on Interpol’s list of 10 most dangerous men.