THESSALONIKI – On a visit to Greece’s second largest city to meet Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who had been savagely attacked by a group while at a ceremony commemorating the Pontian Greek genocide by Turks, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said their intent was to kill him.
Tsipras called it a “murder attempt,” the business newspaper Naftemporiki said as a 12th suspect was arrested. Three men were already found guilty but one was allowed to buy out his sentence at 5 euros ($5.83) a day for a 21-month sentence and the two others were given suspended sentences and no jail time despite the ferocity of the attack captured on film and in photos.
The latest suspect will face charges of verbal assault and disturbing the peace for the May 19 incident which garnered worldwide attention as an example of how divided Greece has become with far-right extremists and far-left anarchists both on rampages against their perceived enemies and a range of targets.
The anti-nationalist Boutaris is despised by the far-right for his love of Turkey and open adoration of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish Republic whose rise to power coincided with the slaughter of Greeks who were driven out of Anatolia.
Talking to reporters at the City Hall, Tsipras first referred to an attempt to kill Boutaris, as he said, while also promising SYRIZA will back the 76-year-old mayor if he run again.
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 earlier.
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.
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 were “organized fascists” known to him. He was briefly hospitalized after being thrown to the ground, kicked and punched by about a dozen people.