Probe blames three over Zoniana raid

An internal police investigation made public yesterday found three Cretan officers to be responsible for a botched anti-drug raid on the mountain village of Zoniana last November that resulted in the serious injury of one officer. The majority of blame for the botched raid was laid on the island’s former chief of police, Antonis Vitorakis, who left the force last March after failing an evaluation. It was Vitorakis who planned and oversaw the risky raid on Zoniana. Another two senior officers, stationed in the prefecture of Rethymnon, were also found to share some responsibility for the fact that Stathis Lazaridis, their 29-year-old colleague, was shot in the head. Lazaridis, who was left partly paralyzed by the shooting, is still in the hospital. The two officers face a suspension of up to four months. Vitorakis, Crete’s former police chief, faces a permanent ban from returning to the police force. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who was given the report yesterday, has the final word on the fate of the three officers, who may also face criminal charges. Overall the report found that the Zoniana raid was badly planned and executed and that plentiful evidence and testimonies regarding illegal activities in the area had not been properly utilized. Police had planned a large-scale operation in Zoniana last November with the aim of dismantling what is believed to be rampant dealing in drugs and arms but they were caught unawares by suspected members of local drug rings who opened fire on them with assault rifles.