A 44-year-old police officer who had been stripped of his weapon after failing a psychiatric exam – but allowed to stay on the force – was charged along with two more suspects in the beating of Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris at a ceremony commemorating the Pontian Greek genocide by Turks.
A 44-year-old local police officer has been identified as being among three more suspects believed to have been involved in last weekend’s violent attack on Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris.
The police officer, whose name was not given, had failed his mental exam, Kathimerini said it was told by a source it wouldn’t identify. The other two suspects are a 43-year-old shop owner and a 57-year-old pensioner.
All three are being charged with verbal assault and disturbing the peace after police found evidence that they were in the crowd of suspected far-right nationalists who went after Boutaris, infuriated with his support for Turkey and other reasons they don’t like him.
Three men were arrested and convicted for the vicious attack in which Boutaris, recovering from heart surgery, was pushed to the ground and kicked and punched but two given only suspended sentences and the other allowed to buy out jail time at the rate of 5 euros ($5.85) per day, a common occurrence in Greece even for major felonies.
Reading out his decision, the presiding judge accepted the incident was “an organized attack against the Mayor,” a position shared by the prosecutor but then let them off easy, also typical of Greek courts.
Boutaris said a group of people who viciously attacked him ate an event marking the massacre of Pontian Greeks by Turks during World War I were “organized fascists” known to him.
Boutaris, 75, was briefly hospitalized after being thrown to the ground, kicked and punched by about 12 people, an incident condemned by political parties, including the major rival New Democracy, although one of its members, a Mayor, saluted the attackers and other nationalists in Greece rejoiced at his beating,.
“The people who attacked me had nothing to do with the Pontian Greek Genocide Remembrance Day. I know who they are. It was organized fascists who attacked me as a person and as a mayor,” he told a packed municipal council meeting, the first after the attack, said Kathimerini.
“Thessaloniki must become the most democratic city in the world. Whoever doesn’t agree with us can vote us out in October 2019. In elections though. Neither by use of force, nor with bravado,” he continued.
“There can be no other way. Because tomorrow it will be someone else in my place. Somebody who will be beaten up for his ideas, his religion, his different sexual orientation, for the color of his skin.”
Boutaris called on all Greek political parties to condemn violence and marginalize “thugs of all kinds.”
“There is no other way,” he said. “Because tomorrow someone else will be in my place, and will be beaten — for his ideas, for his religion, for his sexual orientation, for the color of his skin, for being different.”
Police on the scene were said to just watch and not try to stop the attack and no one was arrested as the Mayor was taken away under protection and went to a hospital for an assessment, shaken and calling the incident despicable.
Footage from the scene shows the Mayor being heckled before the assailants hurled bottles at him and kicked him in the head and legs. As he is hastily escorted into his car, some of the attackers attempt to smash the vehicle’s windows and as one man carrying a toddler waved his arms and screamed at Boutaris.
The assault was quickly blamed by the government and opposition on fascist supporters in Greece but was praised by the Mayor of one city who belongs to New Democracy. The Conservatives leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, didn’t say anything nor removed the mayor from the party.
Prime Minister and anti-nationalist Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was in Thessaloniki on May 25 and met with Boutaris and told him that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” quoting Nietzsche.
“You symbolize an entire democratic progressive front that stands against the darkness and this is the fight you need to fight,” Tsipras told Boutaris, said Kathimerini.
Boutaris asked Tsipras to put forward a request to Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas for measures against hate speech and incitement of violence on social media.
Coming out of the meeting Tsipras told reporters that “the attack on Yiannis Boutaris was organized and planned. The Thessaloniki mayor attends this particular commemoration every year and this time there was a plan to attack him,” he said.
“I encouraged Boutaris to step forward and lead a democratic front,” the prime minister added, without making further clarification.