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Letter from Athens: Deadly Fire, The Way The Game is Played in Greece

July 24, 2020

Former Prime Minister and Looney Left SYRIZA leader Alexis ‘Firebrand’ Tsipras doesn't have blood on his hands over the July 23, 2018 fires that killed 102 people and nearly wiped out the seaside village of Mati because his inept, amateur government bungled the response, hid the death toll and tried to cover up the disastrous response.

He has ashes.

But there's a special place in hell for then-Deputy Fire Brigade Chief Vassilis Matthaiopoulos who so badly mishandled the response that people died horribly and in a recording is sounding like him is heard going even further: threatening to send arson investigator Dimitris Liotsis to a remote place and warning there would be no aid if a fire broke out.

According to the newspaper Kathimerini, which investigated the response and cited the recording submitted by Liotsis, the fire chief – promoted after he allegedly pushed the cover-up – warned the investigator to play along to protect the government.

“If you write about your superiors having any blame, we will close ranks and tear you apart,” Matthaipoulos allegedly told him.

Using a string of profanities, Matthaiopoulos is also heard chiding Liotsios for demanding that documents signed by then Attica Regional Governor Rena Dourou – facing stalled prosecution for her handling of the disaster – exonerate the forestry and fire service, accusing him of lacking the expertise to assess their content.

 “Keep it simple, or they’ll take you for an idiot … Five little things: Wind, combustible matter, a mixture of pine trees and houses, anarchic, unplanned construction. And the result was that the fire got out of control in an hour … Five lines, five words, and hand it in. And the prosecutors? Some people will get the pie and you’ll get f…d. That’s how the game is played in Greece,” he told the investigator.

On the recording the voice said to be Matthaiopoulos is heard warning Liotsios what would happen to him if he revealed the truth.

"… Are you going to go up against the (local) forestry service (branch), they'll rip you a new one; are you going to go up against Dourou, she'll pull your buttocks apart … Once we're accused, we'll put up three lawyers (up against you) … you'll be accused, accused, accused," he said, according to Naftemporiki.

At another point, the male voice making the threats cites an "order" by the "minister", warning him "not to write anything … nor that any culpability lies with your superiors; the minister told me this, saying 'call him (Liotsios), and tell him: Don't write that the mayor or Dourou or anyone is at fault, or any service or the forestry service.'”

The number of dead was 102 but they had names and faces and hopes and aspirations, all burned with them, but all Matthaipoulos cared about was his name instead of having the decency to admit his failure, apologize to the victims, and quit.

Here's what he tried to bury in the report. Nine-year-old twins Sophia and Vassiliki Philippopoulou were found dead in Mati, their bodies hugging their grandparents who died with them.

Family friend Angelos Kontos wrote: “the epilogue has been written. All 4 found hugging each other. Not even death could tear them apart.”

Now Tsipras, with his insistence his government made no mistakes in the response, and Matthaipoulos, with his cowardly and damnable attempt (alleged, of course because today's guilty claim everything is fake news) to cover it up has defiled the memory of those two sweet little girls whose future died in Mati while he tried to protect his at any cost.

Court documents showed Liotsios ran into a stonewall of obstacles from officials trying to prevent him from revealing the government's failures, including from fire service officials challenging his authority and rank, the paper said.

The day after Liotsos’ report was submitted to the head of the First Instance Prosecutors’ Office, meanwhile, the head of the Athens' prosecutor's office Ilias Zagoraios was apparently ordered by former Supreme Court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou to not release the findings until an internal probe that could take months.

When that was reported at the time Dimitriou claimed that her orders had been misinterpreted and blamed others, a common tactic in Greece to prevent being accused of any wrongdoing.

Based on the report, the prosecutor’s office issued charges in March 2019 against 20 state and local officials for a range of mistakes and oversights but none have been taken to court yet, another common problem in Greece that regularly sees cases drag on for years until forgotten or downplayed.

Liotsos' report was given to investigative Magistrate Athanasios Marneris with the paper saying he, too, ran into defiance from Fire Service officials who refused to hand over incident reports and tried to replace him in September 2019 on the pretext that he was taking too long to complete his probe – which is what they wanted.

It's been two years since the fires and the 65-year-old man said to have started them accidentally when he was burning wood still hasn't been named – to protect his privacy – not prosecuted. Nor has he come forward tearfully to beg for forgiveness because hiding and blaming others is the way the game is played in Greece too.

While the perpetrators of the cover-up may get away with it, this being Greece, they will burn in hell. Soon, hopefully.

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