NEWS

PM heralds crime crackdown

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday called for a crackdown on rising crime and extremism, linking self-styled anarchists to common criminals and raising the possibility of a change to the law on university asylum to discourage troublemakers from exploiting campus sites as zones of immunity. «Blind violence and vandalism is not asylum, it is immunity for crime and we cannot tolerate such immunity,» Karamanlis told Parliament ahead of a heated exchange with opposition leaders who charged that the government’s inactivity had fueled a rise in crime. Karamanlis struck back at opposition criticism, calling for zero tolerance of violence committed in the name of «false progressiveness» and heralded a possible change to the law governing university immunity unless there is closer cooperation between academic authorities and the state. «If this does not happen, then the law will change again in order to protect the free exchange of ideas, not its enemies,» he said. Karamanlis said the government would not permit a repeat of last December’s unprecedented riots. His comments came just a few hours before hooded youths attacked police in central Athens and a few hours after a police sweep in the city that led to the arrest of 56 people found in possession of drugs or weapons. The premier added that the government would make use of surveillance infrastructure put in place for the Athens 2004 Olympics in its efforts to crack down on crime. «We have decided to activate the system after the necessary legal procedures,» he said. Opposition party leaders responded to the premier’s comments with strong criticism. «You came to power on a pledge to reinvent the state, and you leave having destroyed any sense of a well-governed state,» said PASOK leader George Papandreou. He also accused Karamanlis of «seeking an alibi… every time he needed to take political responsibility for rising lawlessness.» Alekos Alavanos, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), criticized the prime minister for exploiting the December riots «to cultivate a climate of fear.»