Greece: Life Sentence for Officer who Shot Teen Sparking 2008 Riots

In December 2008, the killing of 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos at the hands of Greek police triggered month-long riots and protests in several cities across Greece, fueled by rage at growing police brutality, compounded by impunity, incompetence and corruption in the Greek political system, rife with scandals, that precipitated the financial crisis. Finally, after two years of tortuous deliberations, the court delivered a verdict on October 11.

The officer who shot Grigoropoulos, Epaminondas Korkoneas, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Another officer, Vassilios Saraliotis, was found guilty of complicity and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

First reactions on Twitter

Twitter users awaiting the verdict and sentencing reacted to the announcement with grim relief and circumspection. The December riots were the first time Twitter was used extensively in Greece by hundreds of users to report on an ongoing story, and was even monitored and quoted by international media. It even helped “nickname” the uprising with the #griots hashtag, which reverberated in coverage throughout social media and beyond.

The public trust in the Greek justice system is at an all-time low, after decades of political scandals and police brutality incidents gone unpunished. Web radio owner Apostolis Kaparoudakis heralded the significance of the day’s deliberations on Twitter:

πιθανά ιστορική ημέρα για τη χώρα (αναμένοντας να καταδικαστεί για πρώτη φορά σε ισόβια ένστολος δολοφόνος …)

a possibly historic day for the country (waiting for a uniformed murderer to be convicted to life imprisonment for the first time…)

Citizen photojournalist Craig Wherlock, who covered the December riots in Thessaloniki for days on end, once again reported from the streets:

On the way to the centre saw lots of riot police units on duty then realised that the verdict on the Grigoropoulos case was out today.

Reactions when the sentencing was announced were muted. Blogger elikas, who says he emigrated out of Greece in disgust at the state of the country, felt a glimmer of hope:

Life sentence for Greek cop who murdered teenager, causing riots 2 years ago. There is some justice left in this country after all…

Antidrasex complimented the “blind lady” and pleaded,

Αγαπητή Δικαιοσύνη, σήμερα έδειξες ότι μπορείς να λειτουργήσεις. Εύχομαι να επεκταθείς και σε άλλες περιπτώσεις, καθώς και στην έφεση.

Dear Justice, today you showed that you can function. I hope you do so in other cases too, as well as during the appeal

… while Cyberela, musing on the chronic delays of the Greek judicial system, appended to the plea,

και να πάρεις πιο γρήγορα τις αποφάσεις σου αγαπητή δικαιοσύνη. 2 χρόνια μετά τη δολοφονία του παιδιού.

… and be more swift in deliberating, dear Justice. 2 years have passed since the murder of the child

Cyberela also compares the verdict with that of a similar case of a youth’s murder by a police officer 25 years ago:

Το παρανοϊκό σύστημα δικαιοσύνης… ο Κορκονέας ισόβια, ο Μελίστας 2,5 χρόνια για το ίδιο έγκλημα

What an insane justice system… Korkoneas gets life but Melistas got 2.5 years for the same crime

… to which satirical blogger pitsirikos replied in deadpan,

Την εποχή του Μελίστα δεν είχε διαδίκτυο και μπλογκ. Την εποχή του Κορκονέα έχει. Αυτή ήταν η ατυχία του.

No web and no blogs in Melistas’ time. There are in Korkoneas’ time. That was his misfortune

elentelon, a vocal proponent of a strict sentences in the Grigoropoulos case, mused on the aftermath:

Και μετά την καταδίκη Κορκονέα που βρισκόμαστε? Η αστυνομοκρατία στην Αθήνα έχει θεριέψει και ο επόμενος Γρηγορόπουλος είναι στη γωνία!

And where are we after Korkoneas’ conviction? The police state in Athens is running wild and the next Grigoropoulos is around the corner

Blogs chime in

The Jungle Report blog also drew parallels with the Melistas case and cautioned that the sentence is not final:

αν η υπόθεση συνεχίσει από το Εφετείο στον Άρειο Πάγο, δεν θα υπάρχει το λαϊκό έρεισμα αλλά μία ζύγιση μέσα σε αυστηρά καθορισμένο νομικό πλαίσιο. [..] Σε πρωτόδικο βαθμό [ο Μελίστας] καταδικάστηκε σε 2,5(!) χρόνια αλλά απαλλάχτηκε στο δεύτερο βαθμό. Έτσι λοιπόν, το να πανηγυρίζουμε για μια ποινή που πιθανό είναι να ανατραπεί δεν είναι κάτι που μπορεί να ικανοποιεί παρά μόνο βραχυπρόθεσμα.

If the case goes through the Appeals Court to the Supreme Court, public opinion will not be a factor, but the issue will be weighed in a strictly legal environment. [Melistas] was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison but was cleared of charges during his appeal. Therefore, it's premature to celebrate a sentence which will possibly be overturned.

Blogger and graphic designer Arkoudos bitterly commented on the lack of justice in the more recent case of an immigrant bystander shot by police during a bank heist, with another front page cover for his faux-magazine, “Point of View”:

Translation: Necessary ingredient – The only difference between vindication and injustice is our caring


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