ATHENS – As more than 100 wildfires swept across Greece and caused incalculable damage to land and destroyed hundreds of houses, the New Democracy government said it would move to make arson a felony.
It wasn't reported if any of the fires were set, as had often happened in past years with land burned and then developed – because there's no law against building on it – the government said there would be 5-year jail sentences for arson.
The word came from Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras who tweeted that punishment for other dangerous crimes was also proposed at a Cabinet meeting as the government moves to further overturn lenient sentences approved by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that downgraded them to misdemeanors.
“The environmental damage caused by forest arson is for the first time explicitly standardized as a crime and the perpetrators will be punished with imprisonment,” he wrote without explaining why it was being done only now.
The now major opposition SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras also called “for rapid legislative measures against arsonists,” stressing the state should ensure that burnt forest areas are reforested so “we do not see buildings sprout where there were once forests.”
He was at the helm when July 23, 2018 wildfires killed 102 people in areas northeast of Athens and nearly destroyed the seaside village of Mati and was blamed by critics and families of survivors of failing to have his government to respond faster to the blazes.
He didn't say if SYRIZA would propose a measure in Parliament to bar building on burned land and corner the government into supporting it or explain why it wouldn't given the vow for stronger penalties for arson now being proposed.