Greece: Convictions for attack on Roma woman and her nephew "first step towards justice"

The convictions yesterday of three men following a brutal racist attack on a Roma woman and her nephew is a “first step towards justice”, said Amnesty International and Greek Helsinki Monitor, the NGO that provided free legal representation to the victims.

A court in the town of Messolonghi yesterday handed down eight-month jail sentences – suspended for three years – to the three men for the attack on Paraskevi Kokoni and her nephew Kostas Theodoropoulos in October 2012.

Paraskevi Kokoni and her nephew were punched, kicked and beaten with logs by a group of local men while they were out shopping in the town of Etoliko, western Greece. Paraskevi told Amnesty that she was singled out because she is a relative of a local Roma leader.

The attack took place amid a series of racist raids on Roma families by groups chanting anti-Roma slogans and threats in the same town between August 2012 and January 2013. In a separate case last month, those attacks were attributed to members and supporters of Golden Dawn in Etoliko.

The prosecutor in that case requested the indictment of the party’s MPs and various members for involvement in a criminal organisation.

It is not clear from the court’s verbal reasoning yesterday whether evidence of a racist motive was taken into account in sentencing the three individuals for causing serious bodily harm. This will be revealed when the written judgement is released.

Legal provisions aimed at combating hate crimes have been in place in Greece for several years. However, investigators frequently fail to examine possible racist motives and prosecutors rarely present such evidence in court.

Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Amnesty International’s expert on Greece, who observed the trial, said:

“These convictions are only the first step to justice. Equally important is that the court now recognises the racist motive behind this crime.

“The impact of this judgement for victims of hate crimes in Greece will be greatly reduced if the court – in its written judgment – does not acknowledge this racist attack for what it is.”

On the ruling last month that attributed the raids on Roma families to Golden Dawn supporters, Panayote Dimitras, from the Greek Helsinki Monitor, said:

“This is a historic judgement as it is the first conviction in Greece for violence against Roma by individuals with reported links to Golden Dawn, particularly as it has been issued by a provincial court.”

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