Greek court orders probe of alleged police beating
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Greek court orders probe of alleged police beating

Athens : NY : USA | Feb 04, 2013 at 9:33 AM PST
Source: Associated Press
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An Athens prosecutor ordered an investigation Monday into allegations of police brutality in the arrest of four alleged bank robbers, three of whom are suspected of being members of a domestic militant group, after relatives accused the police of torture and authorities released digitally altered mug shots that covered extensive bruising on three of the suspects. The four men, aged 20 to 24, were arrested Friday in northern Greece shortly after a double bank robbery in a village near the city of Kozani. Four other people are being sought in that case, in which two banks were robbed simultaneously. Three of those arrested are suspected of being linked to a militant group that has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings. Police released mug shots over the weekend seeking further information on the suspects from the public...There have been numerous allegations of brutality while in Greek police custody in recent years, with suspects complaining of beatings and humiliations during detentions and arrests. "The torture of detainees is an embarrassment for the Greek state," the main opposition left-wing Syriza party said Sunday, adding that such occurrences were "a general phenomenon" in the Greek police and not isolated incidents. "Neither the weight of a criminal act nor any aim of interrogation can justify the torture of detainees." Local media quoted the parents of one of the suspects, 23-year-old Andreas Bourtzoukos, as saying their son was forced onto his knees with a hood on his head and beaten for four hours. Authorities have countered that the suspects had been armed and were injured during the operation to arrest them. Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said on private Mega television that he understood the photos had been altered because police wanted to issue pictures that might lead to further information from the public and they needed to be recognizable. He insisted that instances of torture, if proven, would not be tolerated. Dendias referred to the suspects as "heavily armed terrorists, terrorists who had carried out a robbery." Police say two, Yannis Michailidis, 34, and Dimitris Politis, 21, are suspected members of a militant group known as Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire and were on trial in absentia. The group is best known for a series of mail bombings in 2010 targeting embassies and European officials, including one that reached German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office in Berlin. Neither those nor any of the other bombings claimed by the group caused any injuries. Police allege they have found the fingerprints of a third suspect, 20-year-old Nikos Romanos, in one of the safe houses used by the group. Romanos was a close friend of Alexis Grigoropoulos, a 15-year-old shot and killed by a policeman in December 2008 after a verbal altercation in central Athens that led to widespread rioting across Greece...Greece has a long history of small militant groups active in the country. Most target symbols of political power or wealth in bombings and rarely cause injuries. They have often used bank robberies as a means of raising funds for their actions. Last month, a bomb exploded in a popular shopping mall in an Athens suburb on a Sunday morning, causing no injuries. Warning calls were made and the mall, where shops were closed but cafes and movie theaters open, was evacuated before the blast...Anti-terrorism police were searching an apartment in a nearby Athens suburb Monday after indications it had been rented by one of the four arrested in Kozani. Police said items recovered from the apartment included the stock of a shotgun, butane canisters, a flare, cellphone accessories and a USB stick.

 
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