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Society

Spike in Violence at Greek Universities Draws Prosecutor’s Probe

February 2, 2018

ATHENS – The director of Greece’s prosecutor’s office said it would be investigating a rise in violence at universities where critics said an asylum law keeping police out – backed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA – is mostly to blame for spiraling lawlessness.

The probe will seek to probe repeated accounts of violence, drug trafficking, robberies and even sexual assaults after complaints from academics and students the situation is out of control and that the government is doing nothing to stop it.

While SYRIZA denounced major opposition New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis for blaming the government over the problem, Education Minister Costas Gavroglou set up a committee of experts to “study issues relating to academic freedom, peace and lawlessness on university grounds.”

The 12-member committee is to be led by former justice minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos, and will include several academics as well as representatives of the Greek judiciary and police force and will try to find a balance between keeping the asylum law and protecting students and staff and not let criminals hide on school grounds to avoid the police.

Members of the committee will be permitted to conduct inspections on university grounds, subject to the approval of the institution’s rector, in which case they won’t be able to gather information and evidence they need to make a decision if denied.

Mitsotakis said if he’s elected there would be changes in a university asylum law that has led to growing lawlessness and violence on school grounds ignored by SYRIZA and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who has said nothing about the problem.

With surveys showing the Conservatives have leads of 10-17 percent in different polls over time after Tsipras reneged on anti-austerity promises, Mitsotakis also has seized on the growing troubles at universities to hound the government.

He walked past the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) on Jan. 31 after academics there complained about criminals using the school as a base, including selling counterfeit goods and doing drug deals.

He said he was shocked at “the unacceptable sight of street vendors occupying a public space,” noting that those same vendors routinely “seek refuge inside the university to avoid arrest,” reported Kathimerini.

The asylum law was passed by the former PASOK Socialists in 1982 and while it has been altered still prevents police from entering university grounds without permission of a three-member panel, including a student, unless authorities see a felony in the act or someone’s life is at risk.
Mitsotakis vowed his government would change the law to ensure police can enter campuses if they determine that crimes are being committed there.

“This is not the image of a state university,” Mitsotakis said after his visit to AUEB. “Neither should asylum be abused in such a way so as to provide a cover for all sorts of illegal and illicit behaviors,” he said.

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