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French institute in Athens ransacked by rioters

Latest update : 2008-12-19

About 20 youths attacked the French cultural institute in central Athens at midday, breaking the windows and throwing in a petrol bomb, in what French diplomats consider to be an "organised attack". There were no injuries.

AFP - Masked youths smashed up a French cultural institute in the Greek capital Friday, as students and trade unionists staged new protests nearly two weeks into a crisis sparked by the police killing of a teenager.
  
About 20 youths broke into the Institut Francais around midday Friday and overpowered the caretaker while they broke windows and threw a petrol bomb, police and diplomatic sources said.
  
But nobody was hurt in the attack, which lasted five minutes.
  
"Clearly, it was an organised attack," French ambassador Christophe Farnaud told journalists as he inspected the damage. But it was too early to speculate on who might be behind it, he added.
  
The Institut Francais is in the centre of the capital, near the site of the current unrest.
  
It was just the latest incident in nearly two weeks of violence across Greece triggered by the fatal shooting of a teenager by an Athens police officer on December 6.
  
Elsewhere in the capital however there was no sign of trouble at separate demonstrations organised Friday by students and trade unionists.
  
A few hundred union activists gathered peacefully outside parliament in Athens against what they called an "anti-workers" budget up for vote on Sunday. Large numbers of riot police and other officers kept watch on the demonstration.
  
A few hundred metres (yards) away more than 500 school and university students attended a concert in front of Athens University headquarters.
  
Earlier Friday, about 1,000 students and communist activists marched in a city suburb where another teenager, the son of a union leader, was wounded in a mysterious shooting incident on Wednesday night.
  
After rioting in Athens Thursday which left city centre residents choking in tear gas, the main opposition Pasok socialist party again called for early elections, arguing that the government had lost control of the situation.
  
About 100 leading figures including academics, magistrates and economists launched a petition calling on the government and the political world as a whole to get a grip on the situation to re-establish confidence.
  
The press too expressed the growing concern in the country, with both the Socialist daily To Vima and the liberal Kathimerini critical of the government's inability to end the crisis.
  
Even the right-wing daily Eleftheros Typos wrote: "The majority of conservative deputies are calling for immediate changes, the time for a reshuffle has come."
  
Athens police said they had arrested eight youths -- none of them school or university students -- after several hours of street battles with dozens of militants in the city centre Thursday.
  
They had broken off from an orderly left-wing demonstration of about 5,000 to confront police officers. During the course of Thursday's clashes three cars, a Greek flag and tables and chairs from neighbourhood cafes were burned.
  
Police said that two of those they arrested were minors.
  
Student representatives said that school and universities have continued their occupations of several universities and 700 schools across the country. The education ministry put the figure at about a hundred establishments.
  
Protests have rocked cities across Greece since the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos on the night of December 6.
  
One of the two policemen arrested in the case faces homicide charges.
 

Date created : 2008-12-19

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