NEWS

Hoodies plan gets rapped

Justice Minister Nikos Dendias yesterday defended the government’s plans to introduce stricter penalties for hooded demonstrators caught vandalizing public property or disturbing the peace as opposition parties condemned the initiative as ill-thought-out and ineffective. Dendias, who heralded the new measures on Tuesday, yesterday stood up against a barrage of criticism, saying that «they provide a solution to a broad range of issues of concern to Greek society and the penitentiary system.» The minister told Kathimerini that the measures did not violate the rights of Greek citizens who can protest freely, irrespective of whether they wear a hood. The stricter treatment would apply to those caught committing misdeeds while concealing their identity by wearing a hood. The plenary session of the country’s bar associations yesterday opposed the move. «The problem in our country is not the absence of adequate legislation but the lack of enforcement of existing laws,» the president of the Union of Greek Public Prosecutors, Sotiris Bayias, remarked. The main opposition PASOK party was far more critical of the concept of doubling jail terms for those found guilty of vandalism or disturbing the peace. «There is no point in talking about lighter or heavier penalties when you cannot arrest the culprits,» said PASOK spokesman Haris Kastanidis. He said the measures show the government’s «lack of seriousness and total inability to draw up an effective plan.» PASOK would radically change the training of police officers and the recruitment of staff to key positions, he said. Alekos Alavanos, the head of the parliamentary group of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), also slammed the proposed measures, dismissing them as an «attempt to create an impression and distract (citizens)» and noting that they could cause «significant legal complications.» Meanwhile, attempts by the Interior Ministry to man rapid-reaction teams to curb outbreaks of violence in the city center have reportedly run into problems as 70 percent of officers are reluctant to transfer to the central district of Exarchia, a stronghold for self-styled anarchists and the starting point of many protests.