Greek police arrested over teen killing as violent protests spread

Posted at 12/08/2008 12:16 AM | Updated as of 12/08/2008 12:16 AM

ATHENS - Two Greek police officers were arrested Sunday over the killing of a 15-year-old boy, touching off a wave of violent protests by angry youths setting Athens and other Greek cities ablaze.

Thousands of protestors battled police in central Athens Sunday, smashing the windows of shops and banks with molotov cocktails, and sending three officers to hospital, said police, who used tear gas to disperse the rioters.

And in the western city of Patras, a police officer was in hospital after being beaten up by a group of youths.

In the Greek capital, officers arrested about 10 protestors and about 14 demonstrators were treated for breathing difficulties caused by the tear gas, said the police.

Along Alexandras avenue, at least three banks -- the National Bank of Greece, the Emporiki Bank and the Bank of Piraeus -- as well as supermarkets and dozens of shops were set on fire during the clashes.

Nearly 5,000 people rallied outside the National Museum near where the teenage victim, Andreas Grigoropoulos, died late Saturday.

Grigoropoulos was killed by shots fired from a police gun during clashes between police and youths in Athens' Exarchia district. He was among a group of youths who threw stones at a police car.

One of the two officers in the vehicle allegedly got out of the car and took out his gun, firing three bullets at the teen, who was fatally wounded in the chest. He was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors could only confirm his death.

On Sunday the two police officers, including the alleged shooter involved in the incident, were arrested, police said.

Epaminondas Korkoneas, 37, who allegedly fired the shots that killed Grigoropoulos was taken into custody, as well as Vassilis Saraliotis, 31, who was in the police car when the fatal shooting happened.

The demonstrations began on the streets of Athens late Saturday with protestors denouncing the "arbitrary" police action, shouting slogans against the right-wing government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

Karamanlis on Sunday expressed his sympathy in a letter to the parents of the dead teenager.

"In these difficult moments please accept my condolences for the unfair loss of your son," Karamanlis wrote.

"Like all Greeks I am deeply saddened," he said. "I know that nothing can relieve your pain."

Karamanlis also said that those responsible would be brought to justice and that "the State will see to it that such a tragedy does not happen again".

Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and the police also expressed their "deep sorrow" for what they called an "isolated" incident and have ordered an investigation.

The anger spread to other cities as protesters set about 20 cars on fire in Athens, Greece's second largest city of Salonika and western Patras.

The facades of 17 banks in Athens and five in Salonika were damaged, while some businesses were also attacked. Demonstrators also threw molotov cocktails at the police station in Patras.

On the island of Crete, three banks in the main city of Iraklion were damaged while molotov cocktails were tossed at city hall in the town of Chania.

In 1985, 15-year-old Michalis Kaltezas was shot by a police officer, triggering violent clashes between far-left youths and the police in Exarchia, known as bohemian district.