Brutal raid at minister’s office

A group of masked assailants broke into the central Athens office of Deputy Justice Minister Apostolos Katsifaras shortly after noon yesterday and beat two of the minister’s aides using batons and hammers before vandalizing the premises. According to police, five of the attackers entered the office in Exarchia – a traditional anarchist stronghold – while another five or so stood guard outside. The intruders burst into Katsifaras’s office and beat his secretary and another employee using batons and hammers. The two men were hospitalized with bruises to their heads and bodies. Katsifaras was absent at the time of the attack, attending a Cabinet meeting. Before fleeing, the attackers smashed up the office and scattered leaflets with anti-establishment slogans. Police later detained five suspects but subsequently released them due to a lack of incriminating evidence. Katsifaras’s office had been targeted by arsonists last November in an attack which caused minor damage but no injuries. It was unclear yesterday whether the two attacks were linked. In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Katsifaras said: «Democracy cannot be exploited, terrorized or murdered. It responds by boosting individual and social rights, protecting the weak and eradicating inequalities.» Katsifaras added that he would press on with plans to improve conditions in jails. Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking on the sidelines of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, condemned the attack as «an act of senseless violence.»

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