Rioting eases, government draws breath

Clashes between police and rioters continued in Athens and Thessaloniki yesterday but were less widespread and intense than earlier this week, as the government privately expressed its belief that tension is beginning to ease. There had been fears that yesterday’s rally in front of Parliament by Greece’s two largest unions, GSEE and ADEDY, would stoke a new wave of violence. The rally was attended by some 10,000 people, compared to up to 100,000 earlier this year when the two unions had organized a protest against the merging of pension funds, and passed off peacefully. There were, however, some in the crowd who toward the end of the rally threw rocks and firebombs at riot police stationed around Parliament. Officers responded with tear gas. Three people were injured. By last night, the unrest was confined to the area around the National Technical University of Athens and Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. Sources said that the government has taken this as a sign that the unrest is dying down. Following yet another Inner Cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emerged to announce financial support for the small businesses and stores that had suffered damage during the week. So far, the riots have led to more than 250 shops and businesses and over 100 vehicles being destroyed in Athens alone. The premier again attempted to single out «the troublemakers» for the problems that have been caused. The government is taking extra care not to criticize teenagers and students in general. «With their actions, the troublemakers have again shown that the only thing that inspires them is destruction,» he said. «They always have in their sights social peace, the law and democracy itself.» Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis suggested that the government as well as all of the country’s political parties must take some of the blame. «For the handling of a difficult crisis, undoubtedly the elected government of a country must always take the greatest share of responsibility,» she said. Officer says he fired in self defense, paints picture of youth as troublemaker The 37-year-old police officer charged with the murder on Saturday of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos yesterday told an investigating magistrate that he had fired his gun into the air in self-defense as his lawyer claimed that a coroner’s report shows the boy was killed by a ricocheting bullet. In a written statement, special guard Epaminondas Korkoneas said he fired his gun into the air «two or three times» while he and a fellow officer had been under attack by some 30 youths in the central Athens district of Exarchia. He added that the youths had been pelting them with stones, bottles and other items and shouting, «Cops, bums, we’re going to burn you alive.» In his statement, the officer does not express any regret for his actions. He adds that the 15-year-old had been thrown out of the prestigious Moraitis School and had been involved in sport-related violence. A spokesperson for Moraitis telephoned Mega Channel to refute these claims. The officer’s lawyer, Alexis Kougias, spoke of «one big misunderstanding.» He cited a coroner’s report as saying that the youth’s wound showed the bullet had entered his body at an angle and could not have been a direct shot. He added that a ballistics report showed the bullet bore a mark indicating that it had hit something before striking the youth. The contents of the reports had not been made public by late yesterday.

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