Rioting, fires and arson have been reported in Roma communities near Athens in the wake of a police shooting of an 16 year old unarmed Roma teen in the back of the head on Monday resulting in the camps being raided by Greek riot police and anti-terror units.
The victim was shot in the back of the head in his father's pick up truck after failing to pay a 20 euro fuel bill and attempting to flee the scene.
Large-scale police operations utilising dozens of police officers and special units have been taking place in Roma camps in western Athens since Thursday morning following ongoing riots over the shooting.
Special units police officers, riot police squads and patrol cars moved in on Roma (Greek gypsy) camps in Menidi, Zefyri Ano Liosia and Aspropyrgos in west Attica.
The officers searched houses in order to identify and arrest the perpetrators of an arson attack on a public bus on Wednesday night, resulting in seven people being detained so far.
Members of the Roma community are in uproar after what they claim was a “racially motivated” shooting of teenager Costas Fragoulis by a policeman in Thessaloniki.
The bullet, which struck the boy in the back of the head, was surgically removed on Monday at Thessaloniki’s Ippokrateio hospital where the remains in intensive care in a critical and “irreversible” condition with serious head injuries, according to doctors.
Since the shooting, Roma camps in several parts of Greece have been staging protests which have been getting out of control
Protesters in Menidi reportedly set fire to a public bus on Wednesday night, and threw stones at a second bus, breaking the windows and causing serious damage.
Authorities in Aspropyrgos warned residents to stay inside due to the health risks caused when other groups set fire to a tyre shop, causing a cocktail of dangerous fumes to pollute the air.
There have been calls on social media for a large gathering of protesters to meet outside the court in Thessaloniki on Friday morning where the 32 year old motorcycle policeman, who was arrested immediately after Monday’s shooting incident, will be brought to testify.
The victim’s family and friends, who are keeping vigil outside the hospital in an agonising wait for information about the boy’s fate, have told Greek media that “we will take the law into our own hands” if the policeman is not punished.
Shooting a result of unpaid 20 euro fuel bill
Monday’s shooting incident occurred after the victim filled his father’s pick up truck with petrol and left without paying for the fuel – a total of 20 euros.
The gas station worker apparently then informed four police who were inside the station taking a break.
Two of the police chased the teen on motorcycles for about a kilometre when they allege the pick up truck attempted to ram one of the motorcycles.
The perpetrator claims that he then fired a warning shot into the air, followed by a second shot aimed at the truck tyres to immobile it. Rather than striking the tyres, this second bullet instead struck the victim in the head.
"An attempt to cover up," lawyer says
A bullet has been retrieved yesterday after it was found embedded in the main entrance door of a nearby hotel. It is currently being examined by the Criminal Investigation Service to determine whether it had a similar trajectory to the one that struck the victim in the back of the head.
If proven this will potentially signify that that the accused police officer did not fire a warning shot in the air to stop the vehicle, noted a Greek news site, but instead was aiming at the teen.
The victim’s family has filed a civil action against the police, with their lawyer Theofilos Alexopoulos arguing that the shot was “a direct neutralisation shot.”
“We know the police narrative. When there is an official announcement by ELAS, which only mentions the embolisation but not the fact of the serious injury, we are talking about an attempt to cover up,” he said.