Unionist’s death still divides

A postal unionist who died on Friday after being involved in an argument with rival union members was buried yesterday as legal sources indicated that witnesses have told authorities that the confrontation had become violent. Two coroners have said that their autopsies did not suggest that Manolis Gourniezakis had been beaten at a central Athens hotel in the early hours of Friday morning. The coroners said that an inflammation of the lungs and heart failure had caused the unionist’s death. However, a prosecutor is investigating the 56-year-old’s death and legal sources said that a number of witnesses have suggested that Gourniezakis was assaulted. The hotel security guard and the first policeman to arrive on the scene said they saw that a number of tables and chairs had been overturned. The police officer allegedly told the prosecutor that before being taken to hospital, Gourniezakis said he had been beaten and verbally abused. Gourniezakis was a member of the PASOK-affiliated union PASKE and fellow PASKE members have alleged that he was attacked by a former colleague, Giorgos Bounias, who appears to be linked to the New Democracy-affiliated union DAKE. A colleague of Gourniezakis told the prosecutor that Bounias punched and kicked the unionist before he collapsed, sources said. Bounias said there had been a verbal exchange but denies assaulting Gourniezakis. The incident was a source of friction between PASOK and New Democracy and the Socialists again implied that the government’s policies had played a part in the incident. «The nightmares of the past which are being rekindled are the result of autocratic policies… policies which divide society, undermine labor rights and scorn unionism and workers,» said PASOK party secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou. Greece’s largest umbrella union, the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), called on the judiciary to «intervene in order to apportion blame where necessary,» while condemning «behavior that breeds undemocratic and autocratic action.»

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