On May 5, 2010, I was in Syntagma Square in downtown Athens covering a massive anti-austerity protest trying to decide whether it was safer to hide among the thousands of protesters and gangs of hooded anarchists tossing chunks of marble and Molotov Cocktails at police or duck behind the police firing tear gas at demonstrators.
Not far away on Stadiou Street, cowards in hoods who claimed to be with ‘the people’ were tossing firebombs into a branch of the Marfin Bank, chortling in delight, screaming “Burn!” as the workers scrambled out, but three were trapped, heading to a second-floor balcony trying to escape the choking fumes.
The victims, Paraskevi Zoulia, Epaminondas Tsakalis, and Angeliki Papathanasopoulou, 32, four months pregnant, were within easy reach of firefighters during the fire before they were asphyxiated by smoke.
Witnesses said they saw people with hoods, the preferred costume for anarchists, toss the firebombs into the bank and that the protesters kept fire engines and firefighters from reaching the building, watching the victims perish before them.
The now-defunct PASOK Socialists, who fell apart after then-Premier George Papandreou, to get a first bailout of 110 billion euros ($120 billion), imposed the brutal austerity measures that set off the fiery demonstrations.
The Citizens Protection Minister was Michalis Chrysochoidis, who didn't catch the perpetrators. Now he has a chance again to do it.
Chrysochoidis was appointed to the post again when New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis took power, a move that saw Chrysochoidis ousted from the Movement for Change (KINAL), a center-left group led by former PASOK veterans.
That also made him a target for the sad remnants of the former ruling Looney Left SYRIZA led by ex-not-ready-for-premier-time Alexis ‘Clueless’ Tsipras who blamed Chrysohoidis for not finding the killers.
Being who he is, a shameless hypocritical opportunist who would step over the dead and on the living to advance his unprincipled life, Tsipras – refusing to take part in a ceremony to place a plaque at the site in memory of the victims – used their deaths to take a shot at the government.
SYRIZA, in a statement, referred to "contemptibility and hypocrisy" by Mitsotakis, saying he was trying to exploit the deaths without the Leftists mentioning there was no attempt to find the killers while the party was in power for 4 ½ years.
SYRIZA criticized Mitsotakis for choosing to “put at the helm of the Citizens’ Protection Ministry the same people who handled the case at the time, who had never identified the perpetrators or brought them to justice,” in a reference to Chrysochoidis.
There's plenty of blame to be spread around here because the police couldn't catch who did it either, and the people who knew who threw the firebombs that really snuffed out four lives – the child Papathanasopoulou was carrying (she and her husband were just about to find out the gender) who never got to grow up – have no conscience and no soul either.
Chrysochoidis had a track record of getting his man. In his first tenure at the Public Order Ministry from 1999-2003, the murderous assassins of the Nov. 17 terrorist group who murdered 23 people – including five Americans attached to the US Embassy – were finally rounded up, and in 2010 six suspected members of Revolutionary Struggle were arrested.
If he can catch high-level organized criminals like that, he can find a couple of anarchists hiding like the slugs they are and this is his chance to finally bring justice to the victims of the Marfin fire.
Mitsotakis said the case will be picked up again and that his government would not appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling awarding the families of the victims 22.4 million euros ($2.46 million) or he would have been utterly shameless.
The compensation stemmed from the state's failure to protect life and property, justices ruled as ex-Marfin Bank executives had been convicted on misdemeanor charges of failing to ensure that the bank branch in downtown Athens have adequate fire-detection and fire-prevention systems, as well as an emergency escape.
The gutless wonder that he is, Tsipras wouldn't attend the plaque ceremony and neither would the KKE Communists who said it was a “governmental fiesta,” further smearing the memory of the victims.
A New Democracy statement had the right answer for SYRIZA's attack, saying it was "terrifying and sad that those who never condemned, in writing, the murderers of wage-earners, invest again today in hate and divisiveness."
Tsipras couldn't attend because his party is riddled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers of the type who were in the crowd that day that tossed Molotov Cocktails into the bank killing workers, the people SYRIZA claims to want to protect.
So now it's up to Chrysochoidis to live up to his words and reputation and conduct the biggest manhunt Greece has ever seen and do whatever it takes – whatever – to find the cowardly killers.
“Ten years ago, Greeks burned Greeks, citizens burned their fellow citizens. The murder at Marfin cannot be forgotten. It was a hate crime with no statute of limitations and the stigma of fanaticism cannot be washed off,” he said.
This is his chance to live up to those words or be haunted by the image of Papathanasopoulou looking down at her killers.