ATHENS – A law rushed through Parliament in the waning days of the former Radical Left SYRIZA government that was custom-made to get terrorists and assassins out of jail has ironically reduced the life sentence of a special police guard convicted of the December 2008 shooting death of a teenager that became a cause celebre for anarchists and the party.
An appeals court in Lamia, central Greece, upheld the conviction of Epaminondas Korkoneas for the killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos in the downtown Athens district of Exarchia but reduced the term from life to 13 years.
The SYRIZA bill allows prisoners to seek release after serving one-third of jail sentences of 20 years or more and was designed, said critics, to free dangerous terrorists, the party being riddled with their supporters.
Korkoneas had been convicted to life in prison for shooting Grigoropoulos during a verbal altercation with him and a group of his friends as they were hanging out in the popular Athens neighborhood that is a stronghold of anarchists who fueled a two-week rampage of violence and arson in the area in one of the worst civil uprisings in the country.
According to the case file, Korkoneas fired twice with his revolver in the direction of the group and one of the bullets rebounded off a cement structure and hit Grigoropoulos in the chest, killing him instantly, said Kathimerini in a report on the sentence reduction.
According to reports said the paper, Korkoneas could request immediate release given that he has already served 11 years of his life sentence, in addition to the time he spent in prison pending his initial trial and conviction.
The attorney representing the Grigoropoulos family, Zoe Konstantopoulou, objected to the ruling, saying that it “will arm the hand of the next Korkoneas.” The ruling came as Exarchia was already on edge with the notorious anarchist group Rouvikonas said to be ready for battle with riot police expected to be sent in under the new New Democracy government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who has pledged to restore law-and-order and take back the neighborhood.
In the first hearing of the appeal, which began in December 2016, Korkoneas appeared remorseless, telling the court in his opening statement that he was innocent, adding, “I will not apologize to any 15-year-old,” standing defiant.
At a later hearing, he changed his tune somewhat. “Sorrow, sadness and everything I feel cannot be expressed with words. I wish I could change everything,” he said without indicating whether that was sympathy for the boy he killed or his own plight.
The same court overturned the conviction of Vassilis Saraliotis, a colleague of Korkoneas who was with him during the incident as the judges ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove he was an accomplice in the killing.
There is a memorial to Grigoropoulos in Exarchia and annual commemorations of his death. There was no immediate indication of a response to the ruling that could soon free his killer.