NEWS

Journalist killed in hit linked to terrorist group

A 37-year-old investigative reporter was gunned down outside his home in southeastern Athens early yesterday by unidentified assailants using weapons that police ballistics experts later linked to the Sect of Revolutionaries terrorist group. Sokratis Giolias, head of news at Thema 98.9 radio station and one of the journalists behind the popular dirt-digging news blog Troktiko, was shot 16 times by gunmen outside his home in Ilioupoli at around 5.30 a.m. in an attack that police initially attributed to a Mafia-style contract killing. According to a witness, the perpetrators were dressed in uniforms reminiscent of private security firm outfits and bulletproof vests. One of the group buzzed the intercom to Giolias’s apartment and told him thieves were trying to break into his car, police said. The journalist took the bait, came down and was showered with bullets as he opened the main door to the building. Neighbors said they saw Giolias’s wife, who is pregnant with their second child, emerge onto the balcony screaming. About an hour later, police found a burned car not far from Giolias’s home. A search revealed the car had been stolen in the coastal suburb of Alimos two days before. Tests on the 16 cartridge casings found on the scene showed they had been fired from two 9-millimeter pistols used in attacks claimed by the Sect of Revolutionaries. One of the pistols had been used in the fatal shooting in June last year of Nektarios Savvas, a witness protection officer. The second gun had been used in the attack on Savvas and two other bloodless hits claimed by the group earlier last year: a bomb blast at the premises of Alter television channel and a machine gun attack on a police station in Korydallos, near Piraeus. In a proclamation claiming responsibility for the Alter hit in February 2009, the group had accused the media of manufacturing news and had warned that journalists were also targets. «Journalists, this time we came to your door, but next time you will find us in your homes,» it had said. Giolias’s murder was condemned by politicians and journalists. «Democracy and freedom of speech cannot be gagged, terrorized or intimidated,» said government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis. «Somebody wanted to silence a very good investigative reporter who had stepped on a lot of toes with his stories,» said the president of the Athens Journalists’ Union, Panos Sombolos.