New laws target hoodies

Justice Minister Nikos Dendias yesterday heralded the introduction of stricter penalties for hooded demonstrators caught vandalizing public property or disturbing the peace, proposing that jail terms be doubled for those found guilty of wreaking havoc while concealing their identity. «We envisage a series of provisions (to discourage) the use of hoods, the concealment of features,» Dendias said after talks with Inner Cabinet officials. «Greek citizens should not be afraid to show their faces, particularly while protesting,» he added. The new stricter penalties would range from two years for disturbing the peace – an offense that currently carries a one-year jail term – to 10 years or more for causing widespread damage to public property and injuring citizens or police officers. The new tougher measures come just a few days after a group of hooded youths ran amok in the upmarket Athens district of Kolonaki, smashing up store fronts and cars with crowbars and sledgehammers. Witnesses described the youths as «crazed» and said that many appeared to be in their early teens. Police have heralded the creation of rapid-reaction teams to curb similar outbreaks of violence in the city center. But it is hoped that the heavier penalties will discourage youngsters from going on such sprees in the first place. On the same day as threatening to put more juvenile delinquents behind bars, Dendias heralded 10 measures aimed at decongesting Greek jails which are seriously overcrowded. Noting that Greece has one of the highest rates in Europe for inmates detained pending trial, the minister called for the release of those being detained for minor misdeeds who have the option to pay off their sentences but cannot afford to. Dendias also heralded the creation of a new type of prison to accommodate «particularly dangerous convicts serving life terms,» an apparent reference to escaped serial robber Vassilis Palaiocostas and convicted murder Alket Rizai.

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