A Greek court has sentenced a police officer to life in jail for the 2008 killing of a 15-year-old schoolboy, which sparked a month of violent riots across the country.
AFP - A court in Greece jailed a policeman for life on Monday after finding him guilty of the murder of a 15-year-old schoolboy in a shooting that sparked nationwide riots nearly two years ago.
Epaminondas Korkoneas, 38, was convicted of culpable homicide by a court in the town of Amfissa over the killing of Alexis Grigoropoulos during a December 2008 night patrol in the Athens district of Exarchia.
The panel of three judges and four jury also found Korkoneas's patrol partner Vassilios Saraliotis, 32, guilty of complicity in the crime. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
"Justice has been rendered," the senior lawyer of the victim's family Nikos Constantopoulos told reporters.
The defence has pledged to appeal the sentences.
"This judicial decision is unprecedented," the defendants' lawyer Alexis Kougias said, adding that "the rule of law would be overturned" if officials decided to throw out his appeal.
A controversial attorney with a run of Athens Bar Association disciplinary cautions to his name, Kougias had angered the victim's family during the nine-month trial by attempting to portray the 15-year-old as a troublemaker.
The case is noteworthy in a country where police brutality claims are commonplace but where punishment at this level is rare.
The December 2008 incident sparked days of rioting across Greece, with initial anger at the police compounded by the country's worsening economic situation and a raft of corruption scandals burdening the then government.
The trial was held under heavy police guard after a far-left extremist group threatened to kill Korkoneas, prompting authorities to relocate the trial from Athens to Amfissa, 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of capital.
Ten officers guarded the defendants for Monday's ruling and a force of over 100 police was stationed around the streets of the small central Greek town.
The trial heard that Korkoneas fired three shots on December 6, 2008, in Exarchia, a district known in Athens as a hotbed of popular unrest.
The victim, who according to his family was an unfortunate bystander in a verbal altercation between the two patrolmen and a group of youths, was struck in the chest and died before he could be taken to hospital.
Korkoneas' lawyer argued that the incident was a tragic accident which arose as police fired warning shots to keep back the youngsters who were hurling objects at them.
But the defence suffered a setback when Korkoneas later retracted his claim that he had been targeted with firebombs.
An autopsy report indicated that the boy was hit by a bullet that ricocheted on to him but lawyers for his family highlighted testimony of witnesses who say the policeman was under no threat as he took aim and fired.
The evidence included video footage shot from a neighbouring flat.
According to the Athens chamber of trade, around 500 businesses were damaged during the 10 days of protests that followed the boy's shooting while there was also widespread destruction in the country's second city, Thessaloniki.
The killing also saw a resurgence in far-left extremist activity with several attacks specifically targeting police in ensuing weeks.
The riots were a serious blow to the previous conservative administration which was reduced to governing with a borderline majority in parliament.
It called for elections a few months later in the face of a looming economic crisis that ultimately saw Greece reach the brink of bankruptcy.
Date created : 2010-10-11