Photoshopping away police torture in Greece

by Leonidas Oikonomakis on February 7, 2013

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Greek police may vainly try to photoshop away the torture of four alleged bank robbers, but they cannot gloss over the radicalization of Greek youth.

The story is as follows.

On February 1st 2013, an attempted robbery of two banks takes place in a small village of the Western Macedonia region, called Velvento. The bounty was around 180.000 euros and the police managed to arrest the robbers after a short chase. The news would have passed unnoticed, if the heavily armed robbers were not very young middle and upper-middle class boys, whom the police associates with the armed urban-guerilla group ‘Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire’.

Twenty four hours later, the police make public the photos of the bank-robbers, and the whole country is appalled by what it sees: the faces of four badly beaten 20-25 year olds, which have also been — badly — photoshopped in a vain attempt to hide the cuts and bruises, and the hands (?) that are holding the youngsters’ heads in order for them to be photographed.

The police rush through an announcement to justify themselves, claiming that only the minimum amount of violence necessary was used due to resistance during the arrest, while the Minister of Public Order Mr Dendias (the man who threatened to sue The Guardian for having published a report on the torture of 15 anti-fascist activists by the Greek police, the same man who launched a war against Greece’s squats) said that the pictures were photoshopped in order for the faces of the arrested to be more recognisable (!), claiming that no torture had taken place.

The youngsters themselves — through their families and lawyers — claim that they did not resist their arrest and that they were badly beaten up/tortured while in detention; while there is evidence (videos and pictures from the moment of the arrest) that proves that they were not beaten during the arrest, but whatever happened, it did so afterwards. Some alternative Greek media, together with some international ones, as well as Amnesty International, strongly questioned the official explanations, while the latter also commented that “the Greek authorities cannot just photoshop their problems away”.

Under heavy public criticism, the Minister had to promise that a torture investigation would take place and the results are still expected. The bank robbers are now in detention, yet they describe their actions as political, and consider themselves anarchist ‘prisoners of war’, shouting during their transfer to the Prosecutor’s office “zito i anarhia koufales!” — “long live anarchy assholes!”. What is also worth noticing is that one of the four arrested anarchists is the friend of Alexandros Grigoropoulos — the 15-year-old boy who was assassinated by police in Exarchia in 2008 — and happened to be by his side on that very moment, which surely played a big role in shaping his view of state power and police brutality.

The story is indicative of the radicalization of a young generation of Greeks, and of Greek society as a whole, under the structural conditions imposed by austerity. But it is also indicative of the way the state has chosen to deal with the voices of opposition in the country, be they legal or illegal: with repression, human rights abuses, and public humiliation.

Let’s not forget that a few months ago, the same government, the same Minister of Public Order, and the same police force, tortured — as it was proven — 15 antifascist activists for having organized an AntiFa moto-parade. And it is the same state officials who launched an attack against the country’s squats, for no obvious reason other than silencing any oppositional voices around.

It is by now obvious that the Greek state, in order to defend the extremely unpopular and unsuccessful austerity measures it has been imposing for a couple of years now, has chosen the road of repression. It is not something new: we have seen such practices in the past too — in Chile, in Argentina, and elsewhere. The difference is that in those cases we were talking about military dictatorships, while in the Greek case we are talking about a democratically-elected government, which is even more scary and unacceptable. At the same time, it is also obvious that this strategy of the state is resulting in the further radicalization of the Greek youth.

And you can’t photoshop that, koufales!

P.S. The Greek state, through the police, rushed to publish the photographs of the terrorists. Seeing them, I am not sure who is terrorizing whom.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne February 8, 2013 at 10:25

And maybe people wonder why the police have to cover their faces. Brutal animals!

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Hermes February 9, 2013 at 20:28

The way to revolution isn´t a easy one

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Michel van Dijk February 11, 2013 at 13:11

These pigs think they’re tough, but when you (have to) cover your face you are a coward.

Torture of kids….

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Gerald February 12, 2013 at 01:57

This story got a lot of publicity because that first Greek boy looks like he belongs to a boy band. Being photogenic helps get your picture into the media. Sad but true but at least now the Greek Police are finally under review for their actions. Yeah they robbed a bank but no one got killed and don’t tell me about the other bank robbery where somebody was shot. That was a different case. Why was it necessary to beat up these young people. They were already arrested and in handcuffs. The police go too far. It is not up to the police to punish anyone that is why there are courts. I bet you that nothing really happens to the police.

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AT February 15, 2013 at 13:40

This article foolishly (and possibly purposely) omits some simple facts about this case…. The robbers were armed with loaded AK-47′s, and they took a hostage to stop the police from immediately following them.
In my opinion they got off lightly.

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Leonidas February 17, 2013 at 21:35

@AT: Being armed with AK-47′s (that they did not use in any case- they claim in order not to endanger the hostage) justifies torture for you?

As for the hostage, he was also beaten up by the police, although he was shouting he was the hostage.

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Leftway March 2, 2013 at 17:02

If I read it well, there is written “heavily armed robbers”, so it doesn’t omit this fact.

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Maria S. March 3, 2013 at 00:59

Do the police never show their faces? Is that the way it is in all Europe. In the US the police do not (yet) wear masks. It is easier to be inhumane under cover– just ask the KKK.

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Charles Martel March 23, 2013 at 20:40

Fuck anarchists, they deserve to suffer

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