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Greek report Greek report
by Euro Reporter
2009-10-24 10:55:45
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Minister apologizes for ‘unacceptable’ arrests at Exarchia book launch

Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis yesterday sacked police chief Vassilis Tsiatouras, just a few hours after the “unacceptable” arrests of several members of a left-wing party and journalists during a police sweep in the central district of Exarchia on Wednesday night. “This behaviour by police, who raided a venue where a book was being launched and made arrests, is unacceptable,” Chrysochoidis said after delivering a public apology for the detention of several members of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). The minister said he had asked for Tsiatouras’s resignation and promptly received it, noting that a new police chief will be appointed in the next few days.

“This sheriff or Rambo-style logic is down to overzealousness and is not a good yardstick for the force,” said Chrysochoidis, noting that such behaviour would no longer be tolerated. Members of the force’s Delta rapid-reaction force raided the cafe where the book launch was being held late on Wednesday after a group of youths attacked a police patrol car in the area with stones and other objects. The youngsters, who managed to elude arrest, had been protesting the beefed-up presence of police in the district, a notorious hangout for anarchists and popular nightspot, since the new PASOK government came to power.

It was still unclear late yesterday why police entered the cafe after failing to catch the young vandals. Some police sources claimed that certain participants at the book launch had emerged from the venue and had taunted officers, provoking their reaction. Chrysochoidis, who is reportedly planning a reshuffle of the top echelons of the police force, is said to have pressed officers to carry out “immediate arrests” of troublemakers from now on. In another of his public statements yesterday, the minister said the force was determined to crack down on violent demonstrators without resorting to heavy-handed tactics. “The government has received a mandate to restore law and order and will not compromise the need to curb illegal behaviour while respecting basic human rights,” the minister said.

About time for the policemen to learn what really their job is about


Improving immigrants’ centres

Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Spyros Vougias yesterday condemned the “wretched and inhumane” conditions at an overcrowded migrant detention center on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos and pledged to work with other government ministries to improve the quality of accommodation offered to would-be migrants and refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey. “We will seek to upgrade infrastructure and curb bureaucracy so that the migrants are detained for shorter periods of time and with more dignity,” Vougias told reporters after touring the Pagani center. He described the center, designed to hold 300 people but currently accommodating more than double this number, as “a concentration camp” and said it was “not a place for human beings.”

Vougias said he would try to secure the release from the center of dozens of young children, many of them unaccompanied minors, reportedly living in extremely cramped quarters in one of the warehouse rooms. In a related development yesterday, Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis chaired a meeting of senior ministry and coast guard officials as well as top-ranking police officers and immigration experts to discuss ways of tackling the relentless influx of would-be migrants into Greece from Turkey. According to sources, the minister is planning a redistribution of coast guard resources with the aim of putting more staff and resources in “hot spots,” chiefly in the eastern Aegean where most smuggling ships are intercepted. Chrysochoidis is also said to be planning closer cooperation between coast guard and police officers, particularly in the eastern Aegean.


Flashy lifestyle

Athens police said yesterday they had smashed what is believed to have been one of the biggest drug-trafficking rings in the capital, whose deals involved hundreds of kilos of heroin, following the arrest of nine foreigners. Officers arrested six Syrians, a Bangladeshi, a Sudanese man and a Romanian woman following a raid on a storage basement in the district of Kato Patissia. The raid turned up 140 kilograms of pure heroin, which could have been cut to produce at least 700 kilos of the drug for market consumption, according to police who said they also seized a range of weighing and processing equipment. It was the suspected ring members’ ostentatious lifestyle that betrayed them, according to officers who put the group under surveillance after learning that they had become regular patrons of nightclubs in western Attica, spending large sums while declaring themselves to be unemployed.

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