Guard takes rap for breakout

The head guard of the wing at Korydallos prison in which escaped convicts Vassilis Palaiocostas and Alket Rizai had been held was convicted of negligence yesterday, taking the rap for the massive security lapse that allowed the notorious criminals to perform a repeat of their June 2006 helicopter breakout. After a trial lasting just five days, Nikos Karagiorgos, in charge of Korydallos’s C Wing, received a suspended six-year sentence for negligence. The court ruled that he had been to blame for deeming it acceptable to keep Palaiocostas, a serial robber and kidnapper, and Rizai, a convicted murderer, in nearby cells and to allow them to exercise together. A second guard received a suspended six-month sentence after an unauthorized weapon was found at his home. Both he and Karagiorgos were released and have lodged appeals against their sentences. Another two guards and the helicopter pilot were acquitted. Dimitris Tsovolas – a defense lawyer for the guards, who resigned on Wednesday citing «state interference,» complained yesterday that the trial had been fixed in order to wrap the case up quickly and spare the government any further embarrassment. Karagiorgos himself, speaking to reporters after the verdict, claimed that he had been used as a scapegoat and said that he would clear his name by appealing the court’s decision. Meanwhile, under pressure to find the fugitives and put them behind bars once again, police have been scouring the country for signs of the two convicts, focusing in particular on mountain hideouts at which Palaiocostas is believed to have hidden in the past.

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