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Society

Suspects in Death of U.S.-Born Greek LGBTQ Activist Released

October 1, 2018

ATHENS – A 55-year-old man seen in an amateur video showing the beating of an LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) activist in a central Athens neighborhood, after which the victim died, was released pending trial.

The suspect, who was not named in accordance with Greek privacy laws that are frequently broken when it involves celebrities, politicians, athletes or business executives, was one of two men seen in the video kicking Zak Kostopoulos repeatedly in the head as the 33-year-old crawled through a broken window on the front of a jewelry store near Omonia Square.

The store’s owner is the second man. He was also released from custody this week pending trial despite an outcry from the LGBTQ community. The two suspects face assault and manslaughter charges, though a coroner’s report said there was no evidence to suggest that Kostopoulos died as a direct result of the beating he endured.

The second suspect said at a hearing he was sorry for the incident and that he reacted out of fear because he said Kostopoulos was holding a knife amid reports the victim was trying to rob the store, which haven’t been verified as other reports said he was trying to escape a brawl and went into the store to hide and then panicked.

The jewelry store’s 73-year-old owner, who was charged with manslaughter, had also said that he acted in self-defense and kicked and beat the victim as he lay on the ground with reports a police officer who responded also did.

Kostopoulos died in an ambulance on the way to hospital after he was detained. A forensic report was inconclusive as to the precise cause of death.

Two coroners and a technical advisor appointed by his family found the body did not bear injuries that would cause death and they are now expecting the results of the histological and toxicological exams to shed light on the case, said Kathimerini.

“The conclusion of the autopsy, on which we and the family’s technical adviser agree on, is that the cause of death is undetermined, pending laboratory test and following the macroscopic exclusion fatal injuries,” Nikos Kalogrias, one of the coroners, said.

“(The body) did not bear injuries that justify death. He has some bruises across his body – small injuries which alone do not cause death – so we continue with further laboratory examinations,” he added.

Footage from CCTV cameras across the street published in media show the victim stumbling while trying to pick up a fire extinguisher to break the glass door. He then tried to break a street-level display window on the storefront. The store owner was alerted to the incident and returned to his store, the paper said.

The camera footage shows two men, one of whom is reportedly the store owner, kicking him repeatedly in the head as he crawls through the broken glass out into the street. One of the dozen bystanders called an ambulance and police.

A separate video that also emerged showed the victim attempting to escape after receiving first aid by paramedics before tripping over a table and then allegedly being beaten by a police officer while the victim was already lying on the ground.

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