Riot squads surround protesters at police headquarters

Riot squads encircled Athens police headquarters as more than 1,000 youths converged on the building for a 10th day of protests over the police killing of a teenager. Clashes also erupted at a prison where two officers await trial for the killing.


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AFP - Riot squads ringed Athens police headquarters Monday as Greek protesters targeted state institutions, while the right-wing government faced new headaches with the re-emergence of a landswap scandal.

Protests marked court appearances for six militants among 86 arrested during weekend violence following the police shooting of a teenager earlier this month.

As the country marked its tenth day of demonstrations, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis went to Cyprus for a funeral.

More rallies were planned for the night, but for the first time demonstrators admitted a fear of their days-long mobilisation "deflating."

More than 1,000 youths descended on the capital's police base to lead coordinated action disrupting traffic, public buildings and state radio broadcasts across the country.

But the only clashes involving firebombing and tear gas -- the cocktail of choice for Athens radicals -- came outside the prison where two officers await trial over the December 6 killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos.

With one Sunday poll showing majority public support for a "popular uprising" against Karamanlis' administration, protests were also mounted in Thessaloniki, Patras, Ioannina and on the island of Lesbos.

"Solidarity with state hostages," read a banner outside the high court as university and school students sought to step up their presence on the streets in a bid to keep their movement in the news.

Despite discrepancies between state and student figures for schools occupied, ranging from 100 to as many as 400, the country's education system was far from functioning as it should on Monday -- with just a handful of teaching days left before Christmas.

In a sign of enduring anger, banks were also targeted in the central town of Volos overnight -- as a sprawling mound of candles, football scarves, cigarettes and other mementoes rose at an impromptu shrine at the spot where Grigoropoulos fell.

Meanwhile, findings from the first of five parliamentary inquiries into shady deals with an influential Orthodox monastery were released. The probe by Karamanlis' majority glossed over faults in government conduct which went back 10 years to the previous socialist administration.

Results from separate investigations by opposition groupings and subject-specific parliamentary committees were to emerge later Monday.

The influential Vatopedi Monastery in northern Greece is under investigation over a series of property swaps of valuable state land that lost Greek taxpayers millions of euros (dollars).

Two members of Karamanlis' inner political circle have already quit the government over the affair, former merchant shipping minister Georgios Voulgarakis' wife having been implicated in the transaction.

But the head of the Orthodox monastery was seen to have acted in contempt of the parliamentary commission looking into the scandal.

Despite the troubles at home, Karamanlis went ahead with a planned visit to Cyprus for the funeral of former Cypriot president Tassos Papadopoulos, who died of cancer Friday.

The premier has rejected calls to quit, although opposition socialist leader George Papandreou on Sunday demanded fresh elections.

He told a meeting of his PASOK party that Karamanlis' government "ignores the calls of society, is incapable of steadily driving the country towards change and is afraid of the people... Its political time is finished."



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