Three guilty in fan murder case

Riot police fired tear gas yesterday in a bid to restore order outside the criminal appeals court on Alexandras Avenue in central Athens after a ruling that found just three people guilty of the murder of Panathinaikos fan Michalis Filopoulos last year. The verdict was greeted by a hail of petrol bombs from dozens of Panathinaikos supporters who had gathered outside the court, prompting riot police to respond. A total of 27 people stood trial in connection with Filopoulos’s murder. Nine had been charged with actually killing him. The three judges found 36-year-old drug addict Christos Sakatis guilty of stabbing Filopoulos to death and sentenced him to life in prison. Two other men, Nikos Vagiopoulos and Vassilis Psikakos, were found guilty as accomplices and were sentenced to 10 years in jail. Both appealed against the judgment. The other six men charged with murdering 25-year-old Filopoulos were cleared after the court decided there was not enough evidence to link them with a clash between hooligans in Paeania, east of Athens, in March 2007. However, eight more people were given jail sentences of between three and six months for misdemeanors, such as illegal use of a weapon, committed during the brawl. Another 10 people were cleared of all charges. The prosecutor had recommended that 19 of the 27 people that stood trial be found guilty in connection with the fight between some 500 supporters of Panathinaikos and Olympiakos before a women’s volleyball game. Hooligans from both sides had arranged to meet before the match for a fight, which led to Lavriou Avenue being closed as young men traded blows, smashed cars and chased each other. Television footage showed Filopoulos lying in the middle of the road with a bloodied face as Olympiakos fans swore at him and threatened to kill him, before locals intervened to protect the dying man. The incident led to the government banning team sports for 15 days and trying to introduce tougher laws on sports-related violence. Following an initial clampdown on supporters’ clubs, few measures to restore order at Greek sports grounds have taken root. Clashes between fans and police remain a regular feature of the country’s sporting scene.

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