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Wednesday 19 June 2013

An "unsolved" case of violence

By Ada Psarra for the Editors' Newspaper, summarized/translated by @rebeloskilo

Anaxagora street, 11 May 2008. A 24-year-old man is immobilized by 4 special guards [1]. “He was handcuffed, he was made to kneel while one police officer held him in a headlock him and two others were beating his head. They were accompanied by a female officer”, says the eyewitness. Nikos Sakellion falls into a coma at the hands of the police officers and the video captured by the eyewitness depicts them abandoning their victim after removing his handcuffs.

The eyewitness states that the officers dragged him for 8 metres, turned him upside down and then left him. A police officers called the national ambulance service, EKAB, through the State organization against drugs, OKANA, in order to link Sakellion’s death to substance abuse.

In December 2008, an episode of Pavlos Tsima’s TV show “Erevna” about cases of police brutality broadcast the video captured by the eyewitness along with his testimony on camera. Tsimas also followed Sakellion’s father desperate attempts to seek justice for his dead son. The photographs that were then published in newspapers shocked readers.

The case was shelved, while the prosecutor ruled that the witness is lying and even brought charges against him and engaged prosecution.

But police brutality went on, and, what is worse, against the corpse itself. Officers of the Acropolis police station chose the funeral home and, even though the owner certified that the body was immediately transferred to a cold chamber, he was prosecuted for desecration given that the body was bloodied and in full sepsis when the victim’s father saw it.

The cemetery confirmed with official documents that it didn't receive the body on the day following the murder. After the corpse was "lost for 12 hours, it was officially announced that the young man had a small nylon bag in his mouth  filled with drugs) that he swallowed, and that this lead to his choking.

But going back to the search for actual evidence, that is now held by the Judicial Authorities, thanks to the constant efforts of the victim’s father, his lawyer and forensic doctors, but also to the sworn administrative inquiry conducted by the Greek police, we find out that the doctor present in the ambulance that transferred the comatose young man describes proceeding with tracheal intubation without referring to any small bag. No bags were found at the hospital “Elpis” where the young man was transferred and where he didn't show any signs of ill-treatement, until his corpse was picked by the funeral home owner.

The coroner appointed by the Acropolis police station to conducted the autopsy two days after the beating took place, while the body was in full sepsis, stated in his report that the small bag might have fallen into the young man’s body because of CPR and that it “resurfaced after intubation” in the larynx where the police found it.

In the toxicology report conducted by the coroner, alcohol was found in the victims blood (0.3) and opiate traces was found in the bile but there were no signs of injuries. The administrative inquiry suggests that the 3 policemen who disembarked from their patrol vehicle and arrived by chance on the scene described the incident in a similar way to that described by the eyewitness. "They were holding an immobilized man on the ground and kept him handcuffed while he was gradually collapsing - all the police officers surrounded him and were trying to hold his hands so as to make the usual handcuffing maneuver but they had a hard time doing it - I didn't see him swallow anything."

The three police officers categorically denied that their colleagues used any violent force. Their testimonies were shelved after the prosecutor decided to close the case. When the victim's father's lawyer appealed to the court, she found, of course, the important testimonies of the patrolling police officers in the case file. In contrast, the personal belongings of the dead man that were brought to the Acropolis police station were never found (even when they searched for them). After the appeal, the four special guards were prosecuted for manslaughter and at the same time both they and the patrol vehicle’s police officers were prosecuted for continuous false testimony and for misconduct.

Stavroula Papadodima, professor of forensics at the University of Athens, who was appointed by the family as a technical advisor, concluded that in each one of the three possible causes of death (death from laryngeal obstruction, death from headlock, death caused during the immobilization during arrest) death came from the violent handling of police officers.

She also certifies that Sakellion was not under the influence of drugs and that the small quantity of alcohol found in his body could probably have been a result of sepsis. Additionally, she states that the lack of crime scene/body photographs and sepsis made it hard for her to draw any conclusions about the mistreatment, and that intubation could not have been done if a small bag were present in the larynx.

Five years passed since the murder of Nikolas Sakellion. The trial has been postponed numerous times, and his father is desperately seeking justice while the risk of the case falling under of statute of limitations is very real. A father who was born to refugees in Tashkent, sent his son, a swimming champion, to Greece, and, only 33 days after Nikos arrived in Athens, returned to Greece to claim the body of his dead son.

The trial is to be held on Thursday 20 of June.

[1] A section of the Greek police special forces

1 comment:

  1. Μπορείτε να το εντάξετε στο άρθρο παίδες, είναι από την εκπομπ΄΄η Έρευνα του Παύλου Τσίμα για τον θάνατο (δολοφονία) του ανθρώπου