Police tighten grip on Exarchia

The police presence in the Exarchia district of central Athens, the favorite haunt of self-styled anarchists, is to be beefed up, the Public Order Ministry decided yesterday, according to sources. The decision was revealed on the same day that the police’s credibility took another blow after it was revealed that two officers had been arrested – one on suspicion of being involved in drug deals and the other because he allegedly accepted a bribe. Police sources said that an increase in the number of foot and car patrols in Exarchia began yesterday as authorities seek to clamp down on a recent upsurge in violence in the district, including attacks on stores, political offices and a police station being attacked by assailants wielding rocks and firebombs. Riot police have also been deployed on the streets around Exarchia Square. Police sources were keen to stress that the ramping up of their numbers in the area is aimed at deterring anarchists from carrying out further attacks rather than being part of any operation that will lead to the arrest of suspects. Anarchists and anti-establishment activists have made Exarchia their stronghold and officers say that it is no longer safe for them to conduct patrols there without backup. The initiative will involve 150 police officers split into three daily shifts so that there are patrols in the area 24 hours a day. The new measures were revealed during a troubled day for the force, as it became known that a policeman who had served as a counterterrorism officer and guard for the culture minister had been arrested for cocaine smuggling, while the chief of the Nea Ionia police station in northern Athens was caught after allegedly accepting a 35,000-euro bribe. Internal affairs officers arrested the unnamed police chief as he allegedly accepted a check from a fraud suspect. The officer is suspected of requesting the money in return for giving the detainee favorable treatment. The police chief denies accepting any bribe and told authorities that the detainee had set him up. Meanwhile, Police Constable Emmanouil Loupasakis was arrested late on Wednesday night in a cafeteria in Aghios Stefanos, north of Athens, with an alleged accomplice. The two men are suspected of smuggling cocaine into Greece. One kilo of the drug was found in their possession, police said. Loupasakis had served as a guard for Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and is suspected of providing armed protection for his accomplice, an Albanian national, during drug deals. He is also believed to have used his police credentials to smuggle the drugs through customs.