PM seeks to take ongoing crisis in hand

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday defended his government’s handling of a crisis that has seen a week of rioting in the capital, stressing that citizens’ safety was paramount and that his administration had the «steady hand» that would restore order. «The country needs a steady hand on the wheel,» Karamanlis said in Brussels, where he was attending a European Union summit on climate change. «That is my concern, not scenarios about elections and successions,» he added. Asked about Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, whose ministry also oversees public order, Karamanlis expressed his full support. Karamanlis condemned those resorting to violence and distinguished them from peaceful protesters. «Attempts by the young to express their concerns must not be confused with the activities of extremists,» he said. Asked about a possible change of leadership in the police force, the premier did not rule it out. Meanwhile Deputy Interior Minister Panayiotis Hinofitis told Parliament that the police firearms policy would be reviewed. Responding to a question by opposition PASOK, Hinofotis said he had «no objection» to a review. He also suggested improvements to police training. The results of the ballistics tests on the bullet that killed 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos and sparked the rioting were to be handed to an investigating magistrate late yesterday. Sources told Kathimerini that the results may support the claims of the accused officer that the bullet had ricocheted before hitting the boy. The central Athens offices of the lawyer representing the policeman were vandalized yesterday afternoon. The raid is thought to have been a reaction to claims by Alexis Kouyias that Grigoropoulos had been a troublemaker. In a related development, the wireless communication between the 37-year-old officer and Athens police headquarters came to light yesterday. The recording covers the crucial minutes prior to the fatal shooting last Saturday. It reportedly backs up the accused officer’s claim that he and a colleague had come under attack from a group of 30 anarchists. But the recording of the wireless exchange also shows that the two officers did not obey orders from their headquarters to withdraw and were not responding to calls from headquarters at the time of the shooting. According to the recording, the entire incident – from the appearance of the youths to the shooting – lasted three minutes. Peaceful protesting but also rioting in Athens for a seventh day A seventh day of unrest in Athens proved to be representative of the week that the city has experienced as peaceful protests were interspersed with angry clashes between police and rioters. Tensions rose when riot police approached a group of students, parents and teachers that were protesting peacefully outside Athens University. Various objects were thrown at the officers and they moved in to arrest some youngsters, prompting the angry response of adults. The scenes were repeated when the protesters marched to Parliament. A march by the Communist Party-affiliated student union passed off peacefully. However, other protesters did clash with police outside the Athens Law School. It is estimated that up to 4,000 people were involved in the protests. At least 100 but possibly as many as 400 high schools have been shut down by pupils and it remains unclear if they will return to classes next week. University students are also holding sit-in protests at schools in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras. The police said yesterday that since the start of the trouble on Saturday, 176 people have been arrested, 100 of whom are foreigners. Of those, 131 have been charged with causing damage to shops and 45 with rioting.

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