NEWS

Guilty verdicts for policemen in teen murder trial

Almost nine months after a court in Amfissa, central Greece, began hearing the case against two policemen accused of killing teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos in December 2008, sparking some of the worst rioting Greece has ever seen, both special guards were found guilty by majority decisions. The policeman who shot Grigoropoulos, Epaminondas Korkoneas, was given a life sentence after being deemed guilty of murder with malice aforethought. His colleague on the night of December 6, 2008, Vassilis Saraliotis was found guilty of being an accomplice to murder and received a 10-year jail sentence. Four judges ruled that Korkoneas’s previous good behavior should not be deemed a mitigating factor in his sentencing. By a decision of six to one, the judges also decided that Saraliotis’s previous clean record should not be taken into account in his sentencing. They also rejected his request that the sentence be suspended, which would have allowed him to walk free. Grigoropoulos’s mother Gina Tsalikian expressed relief at the end of the trial and hit out at what she deemed an attempt to paint her son as a troublemaker. «For us, his family, today marks the end of a terrible show that attempted to blacken and insult the memory of our innocent child, with the perpetrators of this crime and the lawyer representing Epaminondas Korkoneas [Alexis Kougias],» she said. Nikos Konstantopoulos, the lawyer representing the teenager’s family, praised the court’s decision. «The verdict sends a strong message about responsibility,» he said. «Yet another happy child, who was murdered, has become a symbol in social and judicial history.» The ruling, however, was deemed «harsh and unfair» by the team of lawyers representing Saraliotis. Kougias, Korkoneas’s lawyer, said that the judgment was not sound because the trial had not been handled properly. «The process was marked by significant omissions, since a crucial witness [the friend who was next to Grigoropoulos when he was shot] was not examined and the ballistics experts who were questioned were all acting on behalf of the teenager’s family,» he said. Korkoneas claimed that he had fired warning shots into the air after a number of objects were thrown at his patrol car in the central Athens neighborhood. Some witnesses, however, claimed that the special guard shot directly at a group of people. Ballistic tests showed that the bullet that killed Grigoropoulos had ricocheted off a cement bollard near the ground. Grigoropoulos’s killing sparked more than two weeks of intense protests against the police and the government in Athens and other major cities. Athens and Thessaloniki also experienced some widespread rioting which dominated world news for a number of days.