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Europe

Policemen arrested for boy's death as riots continue

Video by Oliver FARRY , Aurore Cloé DUPUIS

Latest update : 2008-12-08

Two policemen were charged with the death of a 15-year old participating in clashes, one for manslaughter and the other for abetting him. The charge has sparked massive riots by anarchist groups in Greece's two main cities, Athens and Thessaloniki.

REUTERS - Hundreds of demonstrators threw fire bombs at police, smashed shop windows and burned vehicles in Greece's two main cities on Sunday, in a second day of protests at the killing of a 15-year-old boy by police.

 

Greece's worst riots in years erupted late on Saturday after the shooting in Athens and quickly spread to the northern city of Thessaloniki and other towns.

Despite appeals for calm from Greece's conservative government, violence erupted again on Sunday.

 

In Athens, tear gas choked the central Alexandras Avenue and protesters rained petrol bombs down on police, setting fire to buildings. Acrid grey smoke filled the air and glass and rubble were strewn across the street. "Two car dealerships ... have been completely burned down. A supermarket is on fire and it seems there are at least four people trapped on the third floor," said an Athens police official, who declined to be named.

 

"The fire brigade will evacuate the building."

 

In Thessaloniki, a protest by more than 1,000 people descended into violence when marchers lobbed firebombs at police. Demonstrators chanted "Killers in Uniform" at police.

 

Anger among Greek youths has been fanned by the growing gap between the rich and poor in recent years. Street violence at student rallies and fire bomb attacks by anarchist groups are common.

 

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, whose government has been rocked by scandal and an economic slowdown, pledged action in a public apology to the father of the dead boy.

"I know nothing can relieve your pain, but I assure you ... the state will act, as it ought to, so that yesterday's tragedy won't be repeated," he said.

 

 

 

POLICE CHARGED

 

Two police officers were arrested in connection with the shooting and prosecutors said in a statement one would be charged with manslaughter and the other with abetting him.

 

One officer fired three shots after their patrol car was attacked by a group of 30 youths in Athens' volatile Exarchia neighbourhood, a police statement said.

 

A police official said the officer described the shots as warning shots. Witnesses told Greek TV he fired directly at the boy who died.

 

Athens police said at least 31 shops, nine banks and 25 cars were damaged by fire during Saturday night's protests, which devastated the capital's busiest commercial districts ahead of Christmas sales.

 

Twenty-four police were injured in Athens, one of whom remained in hospital, a statement said. Six people were arrested for looting shops and one for carrying a firearm.

 

"It is the first time in my life I've seen the city ravaged in this way. The government is to blame," said Ioannis Damascos, 59, surveying the damage in central Athens.

 

It was the first time since 1985 that a minor had been killed in clashes with police. The 1985 killing sparked months of almost daily clashes between police and protesters.

 

Greece, where one in five lives below the poverty line, has seen a rising wave of anti-government strikes and youth protests in recent months as the global slowdown has started to bite.

 

"We must not feel weak and disgraced, but furious with the government's incapacity, apathy and irresponsibility," said opposition Socialist party leader George Papandreou.

 

The Socialists have taken the lead in opinion polls amid anger at public scandals and the government's economic stewardship. Many analysts say Karamanlis could be forced to call an early election next year.

Date created : 2008-12-07

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