Appeal | Day 7: Police officers, eyewitnesses and witnesses for the prosecution

Summary

Date:20 February 2024
Location:1st Mixed Court of Appeal of Athens, Room D120B, 6th floor
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:

(Continued) L.D., eyewitness, retired police officer
Eleftherios Liakopoulos, police officer
Petros Athanasatos, commander of group Z
K.F., eyewitness, passer-by
B.A., passer-by
Dimitris Christopoulos, professor of Political Science at Panteion University
S., former coordinator at National First Response Centre
Despina Tosonidou, member of the Executive Secretariat of OENGE
Maria Louka, journalist
Composition of the court:President: Alexandra Vasilakakos
Judges: Dimitrios Oikonomou, Ioanna Chatzaki
Jurors: Asimakopoulou, Athanasopoulou, Kotsopoulou, Kourou
Prosecutor: Stylianos Kostarellos

Day 7 – 20 February 2024

Witness L.D., eyewitness (continued from previous day)

The trial started at 9:06, with the completion of the examination of the witness L.D., who had testified in the previous, 6th day, by the advocate Glykas for the defense of the defendant Chortarias, who stated at first that he wanted to ask “one last question” but expanded on several more, with the presiding judge interjecting, noting that the witness is being asked over and over about things she’s already said.

Witness Eleftherios Liakopoulos, police officer

The witness Eleftherios Liakopoulos was not present at the incidents, but he testified that, until then, as the head of the DIAS department, he was asked to evaluate the behavior of the police officers from the video footage, i.e. if their actions were appropriate. The officer said he found all of the officers’ actions consistent with their training. When the bench as well as the advocates of both sides tried to ask more specifically, the witness said that he does not know anything further, except that there was a disciplinary procedure but he did not know the result either.

Witness Petros Athanasatos, police officer, commander of group Z

Then came the witness – also not an eyewitness – Petros Athanasatos, a police officer who, during the events of the murderous beating of Zak Kostopoulos, served as the commander of group Z, to testify about the behavior of the police officers, again based on the videos. The witness Athanasatos, however, testified that he knew about the disciplinary review and that the police officers were acquitted. When asked by the prosecution about the origin of the “robbery” signal, the witness said he did not know anything. Asked by the defense, however, if the victim was “dangerous to society as a whole”, he answered with certainty “absolutely”.

Witness K.F., eyewitness, passerby

Then the witness K.F., known from the videos as “the man with the pigtail”, testified. The witness said that he had stopped with his motorcycle at the corner of Patision street and Gladstonos street and saw Zak Kostopoulos from the moment he was knocking on the door of the jewelry store from the inside with the fire extinguisher. He reported that three or four people were throwing things from outside at the victim trapped inside the store. He described the kicks that followed as “unbelievable” and the whole incident as something “brutal, inhuman”. Characteristically, he said that “at one point the jeweler stepped on his (the victim’s) head, as if he was going to mash his head on the glasses”, and when the victim went out “the kicking continued”, at which point he himself intervened to stop the perpetrators.

The witness answered to the prosecutor’s questions, that the blows of the accused Dimopoulos seemed “more awkward”, while the accused Chortarias hit “as if he had been trained”. He described seeing the victim holding a utility knife when he was at the bottom of the window, but not earlier when he was standing inside the jewelry store. However, he saw the defendant Dimopoulos take the knife and put it to the neck of Zacharias Kostopoulos, so the witness himself said to the defendant “what are you going to do now? Will you slaughter him?” and the accused replied to him “do you know what he did to me? He fucked me.”

Advocate Glykas, defending the defendant Hortarias, submitted a series of repeated questions about the knife, forcing the president to intervene to avoid repeating what the witness had already said.

Witness B.A., passerby

The next witness, BA, placed himself on the outside tables of the “Venetis” shop, where he had been with his girlfriend. The witness testified that he saw the victim rush past him and head towards the jewelry store, which he entered as it was open and was immediately followed by the jeweler. He immediately heard shouting and a crash and said he saw the jeweler come out of the store and press the remote control on the door to lower the blind.

At this point there was a short interruption as the president kicked two people from the audience out of the room, for no apparent reason. After the bench returned, the defendant Chortarias asked to denounce a verbal attack he received – as he claimed – outside the courtroom, to which the president replied that it is not the jurisdiction of the court. Advocate Glykas objected that it started inside the courtroom and the president replied “we don’t play the circle game”.

The examination of the witness B.A. continued, with the witness describing the details of the events from the moment Zacharias Kostopoulos was trapped in the jewelry store and thereafter. The witness explained that he did not see all of the blows because there were people in front of him, however he said that the defendants looked like they knew what they were doing. The witness also reported that the rescuer was already at the scene before the events, with his motorcycle parked on the pedestrian street of Gladstonos, just below the jewelry store towards Patision.

After the completion of the testimony of the witness B.A. followed by a brief comment by the defense attorneys.

Witness Dimitris Christopoulos, professor of Political Science at Panteio

The witness Dimitris Christopoulos came to testify after being called by the prosecution, regarding the racist motive in the fatal beating of Zak Kostopoulos. The witness described this particular crime as “the epitome of racist crime”, as it is not the result of personal differences but of the perpetrators’ perception of the victim’s real or supposed identity, in this case as a “drug addict” or more generally as a “marginal”, without them knowing in advance who it is.

Commenting after the testimony of the witness, advocate Anagnostopoulos, for the defense of the accused Dimopoulos, noted that the racist motive was not investigated during the pre-trial, to which the advocates supporting the charge countered that there was an order from the then Supreme Court Prosecutor, but the police did not investigate it.

S., former coordinator at National First Response Centre

Then the witness S., who was at the time of the incident working as local coordinator for National First Reponse Centre (EKAB), came forward and testified. The witness said he heard on the radio about the incident while he was motoring on Panepistimiou street, and moved towards Gladstonos street to assist his colleague, T.E. (who testified on the 6th day of the trial). When he arrived at the scene, he saw T.E. bandaging the victim’s head and he went to help, but T.E. told him it was almost over. The movement of Zacharias Kostopoulos to get up and escape was described by the witness S. as “a mistake, because he went towards the police officers”, one of whom hit him in the leg with a baton, causing him to fall down.

Then the witness S. described that, after the actions of the police, the victim was injured in the leg and the rescuer T.E. went to tie it, while he himself considered the episode over and went to get coffee. Then, he testified, he saw the ambulance coming and, as they were taking Zak Kostopoulos, he noticed that he was blue, which he described as a symptom of hypoxia. He also said that neither rescuer TE nor the ambulance crew were able to cut the plastic bindings from the victim’s handcuffed hands as there were no suitable scissors available.

Witness S. also testified his assessment – ​​despite the fact that he is not a doctor and contrary to the forensic report – that the victim “was already in a heart attack throughout the incident”, but noted that “not even the doctors have the specialized knowledge of the medical examiner”. Nevertheless, he answered a series of questions from the defense about the characterization of the wounds and the probable time of the heart attack.

Witness Despina Tosonidou, member of the Executive Secretariat of the National Federation of Hospital Physicians Associations

The witness Despina Tosonidou, doctor and member of the E.S. of the Federation of Associations of Hospital Doctors of Greece, called by the support of the prosecution, testified about her observations as a doctor and trade unionist about the “unthinkable”, as she said, behavior of the police and rescuers towards the victim. The witness described the event as a stereotypical incident of racist violence. Also, the witness mentioned that hundreds of doctors were led to a unanimous resolution that this is a racist crime, as these events are not alien to their lived experience.

Then the witness Tosonidou referred to the claim of the witness S. that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) could be performed on the side, with the victim’s hand strapped behind his back, and called it a “joke”.

Witness Maria Louka, journalist

The next witness was Maria Louka, journalist and screenwriter, friend of Zak Kostopoulos. She testified that Zak was not unknown, spoke of his activist actions and noted that he might have been easily recognizable. She also said that his sexuality was not hidden and that anyone would understand it. Referring to the character of the victim, she explained that he could never act dangerously or threateningly against anyone.

In addition to these, the witness described two incidents of intimidation by the accused Chortarias, one against her and another journalist, Anna Nini, in July 2019, and another, with a physical attack, against the journalist Afroditi Frangou.

The court adjourned at 14:13 for the next hearing on February 23, 2024.

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

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