Appeal | Day 5: “We would be talking about this if the deceased had been found dead in his home”


Date:14 February 2024
Location:1st Mixed Court of Appeals, Athens, room D120A
Access:The hearing is open to the public without restrictions.
Photojournalists are not allowed to cover the trial.
Defendants in attendance:Athanasios Chortarias, owner of a real estate agency
Process:Witnesses: Christos Eftychiadis, pathologist; Efthymios Kostopoulos, father of the victim; Sokratis Tsantiris, medical examiner (technical advisor to Kostopoulos’ family); Petros Lagoudakos, DIAS department head; Kyriakos Falkas, police officer (DIAS); Ioannis Aspiotis, police officer (DIAS)
Composition of the court:President: Alexandra Vasilakakos
Judges: Dimitrios Oikonomou, Ioanna Chatzaki
Jurors: Asimakopoulou, Athanasopoulou, Kotsopoulou, Kourou
Prosecutor: Stylianos Kostarellos

Day 5 – 14 February 2024

The procedure started at 9:20 in room D120A on the 6th floor.

The defense attorneys commented on the testimony of the medical examiner witnesses Kalogrias and Marianos from the previous, 4th trial. The defense attorney for the defendant Hortarias, Glykas, commented on the conclusion of the medical examiners’ report as a “completely wrong opinion”, claiming that the victim’s death was “sudden” and resulted from arrhythmia. Advocate Anagnostopoulos, for the defense of the defendant Dimopoulos, claimed that Zak Kostopoulos had an ischemic episode that was already in progress before the “intervention of the two defendants”, as he described the beating.

Witness: Christos Eftychiadis, pathologist

Witness Christos Eftychiadis, an expert pathologist who examined the victim’s organs as part of his cooperation with the forensic service, answered the court’s questions in detail about his findings, which are included in the coroner’s report. He clarified that the medical examiners are the only ones competent to determine the cause of death. He characteristically stated that “we did not have a myocardial infarction, it was a normal heart” and explained that the wording “ischemic-type lesions” means that “there is no cardiac reason for a heart attack to occur”. The witness also referred to the defense’s claims about other causes of death, saying that “we would have discussed these if the deceased had been found dead in his home without anything having happened. But we cannot overlook the stress mechanism.” He also ruled out the association of macrophage cells with the victim’s death.

The witness received a barrage of questions from advocate Glykas of the Hortarias defense about individual points of the histological examination, to the extent that the president intervened several times to bring the questions back on topic. The witness, however, clarified that the reduction of the onset of ischemic lesions to a specific time before the beating is merely defense interpretation and not medical fact.

Witness: Efthymios Kostopoulos, father of the victim

After witness Eftychiadis’ testimony was completed, witness Efthimios Kostopoulos, father of the victim, was called to testify.

The witness began his testimony by noting that the sitting prosecutor, Stylianos Kostarellos, was also the sitting prosecutor at the Five-Member Appeals Court which granted the defendant Hortarias a suspended sentence just two months after his first-trial conviction. Referring to the defendants, he said they were “fighting over who’s going to kill my child”, while describing them giving television interviews immediately after the fatal beating. He also said that the accused have never apologized to the family.

Although defense attorneys initially refrained from questioning the victim’s father, defense attorney Glykas caused a stir at the end of the prosecution’s defense questions, shouting that the witness “is coming here and he is insulting the prosecutor.”

Witness: Sokratis Tsantiris, medical examiner (technical advisor to Kostopoulos family)

Then the medical examiner Sokratis Tsantiris, who had been appointed as a technical advisor by the Kostopoulos family, testified.

The witness confirmed once again that he agrees in everything with the conclusion of medical examiners Kalogrias and Marianou, while he specialized his scientific opinion on certain findings, such as the subarachnoid hemorrhage on the left side of the head. The witness clarified that he does not disagree with any of the findings of the state-appointed medical examiners. The witness expressly ruled out the effect of the HIV virus as a factor that could cause sudden death, while reaffirming that he believes that the blows to the head were the most serious, although all the injuries caused the organic stress mechanism.

The defense attorneys, by asking questions to the witness, attempted to present a discrepancy between the report of the medical examiners Kalogria-Marianos and the report of the witness as a technical consultant. The witness Tsantiris insisted that there is no disagreement or difference, except in the characterization of individual findings. Advocate Glykas once again provoked the intervention of the president, as he kept interrupting the witness while trying to answer him.

Witness: Petros Lagoudakos, police department head (DIAS)

After the established lunch break, the witness Petros Lagoudakos, a police officer who was then serving as the head of the DIAS team, came to testify, in the capacity of certified trainer of EL.AS., without, however, being present or having any other direct or indirect involvement in the events. The witness repeated what he had said in his testimony at the trial court, namely that the violence used by the police officers was “lawful”.

The witness Lagoudakos, answering questions from the lawyer Anagnostopoulos for the defense of the accused Dimopoulos, interpreted what he saw in the video as “possible self-harm” by Zak Kostopoulos.

Witness: Kyriakos Falkas, police officer (DIAS)

Then the witness Kyriakos Falkas, a police officer of the DI.AS team, came to testify. Falkas arrived at the scene after the first beating of the victim. The witness said that he and a colleague were far from the events, at a distance of “70-80 meters”, “outside the circle of people” and “they were chasing people away”. He said he did not remember exactly how the victim was lying but said he saw Zak Kostopoulos “break a piece of glass out of the window” and take it. He described the glass as “big, 40-50-60 cm”. However, he stated that he was “exactly at Gladstonos str. and Patision str.” and did not see the victim holding his neck.

In the questions from defense attorney Papapantoleon in support of the charge, the witness said that the victim “refused to cooperate”, while to a question from defense attorney Paparrousou, he answered that he did not remember seeing any injuries, nor if the victim had his head tied.

Defense attorney Anagnostopoulos asked the witness questions about whether he felt threatened, while in the same direction, attorney Glykas presented as a given that the victim was “dangerous” to others, with which the DIAS police officer agreed. Furthermore, advocate Glykas asked if the defendant Hortarias has ever engaged the police, only to get a negative answer.

Witness: Ioannis Aspiotis, police officer (DIAS)

After the testimony of police officer Falkas, police officer Ioannis Aspiotis testified, one of the men of the DIAS team, who handcuffed Zak Kostopoulos with plastic ties, shortly before he died. Witness Aspiotis positioned himself as the last to arrive at the scene. He described that as they approached they heard “he went to steal” and saw a lot of commotion, before Kostopoulos fell down. He reported that the victim was holding glass and that he was yelling at him to “drop it,” while his fellow officers intended to line up Zak Kostopoulos to make the arrest. To questions from the headquarters, he answered that the victim did not say anything or answer the police and that he did not see the two defendants, Dimopoulos and Hortarias at all, he did, however, see one of his colleagues holding the knife to put it in a bag.

In questions from the prosecution, the witness Aspiotis said that his colleagues “neither stepped on him, nor pushed him, he fell on his own”, while in questions from the defense the witness claimed that the picture he had matched a robbery and that the accused Hortarias had not been a concern of the police in the past.

Advocate requests to view digital material

At the end of the trial, the defense attorneys for the prosecution submitted a request that there be an infrastructure for viewing the video at tomorrow’s 6th trial, so that the court can refer to it during the testimony of the witness Christina Varvia, investigator and a technical adviser of the family who will refer to the relevant study of Forensic Architecture / Forensis. The judges did not respond to the request, as the president said “we will see in the readers”

The court adjourned at 15:08 for the next hearing on February 15, 2024.

The full text of our transcript from the courtroom (in Greek) :