Eight Found Guilty in Bullying Suicide of Greek Student

FILE - Vangelis Giakoumakis' relatives attend the court at Ioannina, northwest Greece, April 8, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

Eight of nine defendants charged with the violent bullying of a 20-year-old student at a Dairy School in Ioannina in northwestern Greece were found guilty of driving him to commit suicide in 2015 but can buy their way out jail.

They were all students and witnesses said the defendants repeatedly bullied Vangelis Giakoumakis for several months, leading him to take his own life, but school officials did nothing.

Five of those convicted were given three-year jail sentences but offered the option of paying 5 euros a day, or 5,475 euros ($6543) to avoid prison instead and won’t have to spend a day confined, a common practice in Greece even for violent crimes.

The other three were ordered to 150 hours each of community service because they were minors at the time when their crimes were committed with no explanation how that could be if they were in college. All eight plan to appeal the sentences despite the lenient ruling.

A witness in the trial said she the victim being attacked repeatedly. The woman, who was not named although she was testifying in court, didn’t say why she didn’t report the assaults when she saw them, adding that the accused kept punching Giakoumakis and spitting on him.

She was also a student at the school and one of the few people who have testified they saw Giakoumakis being bullied and told the court one of the defendants pulled a knife to keep her from talking, as she was discussing a grade with a professor, a local news website reported, without explaining why the professor didn’t call the police.

She said she told school officials of the intimidation and that they responded by asking students not to bring knives on campus or in dorm rooms, with no explanation why police weren’t called over that either.

She also described Giakoumakis as a quiet, kind man who never caused any trouble.

In December, 2018, the farming school former director received a suspended sentence after being found guilty of negligence in the bullying suicide and didn’t have to serve any jail time.

The court acquitted former minister Christos Markoyannakis, a New Democracy deputy, who stood accused of trying to protect the student who allegedly bullied Giakoumakis, Kathimerini said.

The former director was accused of failing to react to reports that Giakoumakis was being victimized by fellow students at the school and that the abuse led him to commit suicide.

A prosecutor had recommended the acquittal of three defendants despite the evidence and the former school director’s lawyer said his client would appeal the suspended sentence despite its leniency.

In 2016, information from the case file suggested politicians intervened to protect a group of students for allegedly bullying the 20-year-old.

Staff at the school in northwestern Greece claimed in their testimony that disciplinary action against the students was halted after the institution’s director was pressured into letting them off, the newspaper said at the time.