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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Developments in Skouries 12 May 2013

Posted by @IrateGreek

Clashes took place again this morning in north-eastern Halkidki where residents are protesting against logging activities by mining company Hellas Gold in the basin of the Karatzas stream near the Skouries forest.

According to the antigoldgreece blog, these new developments come ahead of a planned meeting tomorrow morning between the Residents' Committees Against Mining and the leadership of the regional police to examine the validity of operational permits held by the mining company for logging activities in the Karatzas area. Also invited to the meeting are the head of the municipal forestry authority and the head of the department of urban planning, who still have to reply to a denunciation of possibly illegal construction activities by the company in the Skouries forest.

Residents opposed to mining plans have been protesting every day this week in the Karatzas area where lumberjacks are working under police guard. This morning, a group of protesters asked the head of the Halkidiki police force to suspend logging activities until the meeting tomorrow. The police officer agreed to take it up with the regional police leadership and left. Approximately one hour later, a group of riot policemen circled the protesters and assaulted them with tear gas. It seems that 4 people were wounded in the clashes that followed, three of them policemen. There have been claims that one policeman was shot but the Polygyros hospital administrator spoke only of scratches and did not mention any gunshot/buckshot wounds.

Also this morning, a group of women who were walking up to the Skouries worksite were assaulted by the riot policemen guarding it. Three were detained and taken to the Halkidiki police HQ in Polygyros. Reports indicate that the police were not allowing lawyers and the local SYRIZA MP inside to see the detainees. @SaveSkouries reported that one woman was beaten by the riot police and had to be taken to the hospital as well.

As of 17:00 EEST reports from residents indicate the presence of a strong police force on the two main roads out of Ierissos.

Update 17:30: Prime Minister Samaras's Director of Communications George Mouroutis is claiming that 7 policemen were wounded  by a "dispersion weapon". Greek social media are awash with ironic comments on this blatant exaggeration.

Update 20:15: The arrested women's lawyer says that they are charged with resistance to authority, sedition and attempt to release a detainee. One of them is wounded and has been denied medical treatment. Only one policeman has a light wound on his hand, the other two were taken for checkup and discharged. One (other?) injured woman has to wear a surgical collar.

Ierissos resident iosifsk posted on his YouTube channel this video of the moment the women were arrested.

Meanwhile, Greek Twitter users are reporting that Mega Channel's evening news is speaking of 7 policemen wounded by multiple gunshots. The majority shareholder of Mega Channel, G. Bobolas, is also the owner of the Greek stake in Hellas Gold (5%, the remaining 95% is owned by Canadian company Eldorado Gold).

Update 13/05/2013 8:00am: @AndreasKakaris informs us through Twitter: 
"A few words about what happened in #skouries according to eyewitness accounts we collected: first, there is no way there were any shootings. People went up to the Karatzas stream to see if trees were still being cut. The police was waiting for them lower than usual. That caused tension because they didn't let them go up [the mountain], as a result one group of policemen chased the men and another group stayed at the checkpoint with the women. The video [above] is from that moment.
At the "women's place", there was tension again, with the police detaining three women while a fourth woman bit a policeman and escaped. In that same place, a policeman grabbed a woman from her neck, wounding her and causing her to wear a surgical collar. Security staff of the company who were speeding in their Jeep hit rocks, causing damage to their car. It's lucky they didn't hit a protester.
The men went through another path and managed to come back under unprecedented teargassing. 15 of them were trapped in the forest. These 15 managed to escape later, after fighting the riot police. Everyone was talking about the rage of the policemen.
The remaining wounded were hit during this attempt to trap the men. That's 2 people lightly wounded according to our sources, not 9. In any case, everyone was impressed by the use of tear gas. Shock and awe, they said. Wounding people was unavoidable.
Lastly, the helicopter that was hovering overhead took off to spot the 15 men but failed, so the women paid the price.
My personal assessment: the police is relying on the fact that no videos could be taken due to the violence of its intervention to propagandize."