Court of Appeal | Day 3: First testimonies


Date:18 January 2024
Location:1st Mixed Court of Appeals, Athens, room D100A
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:Reading of the charges, pleas of the defendants, examination of witnesses: Nikos Kostopoulos, Eleni Kostopoulos, K.S. (friend of the victim), Konstantinos Michailidis (police officer – DIAS)
Composition of the court:President: Alexandra Vasilakakos
Judges: Dimitrios Oikonomou, Ioanna Chatzaki
Jurors: Asimakopoulou, Athanasopoulou, Kotsopoulou, Kourou
Prosecutor: Stylianos Kostarellos

Day 3 – 18 January 2024 – Room D100A, Mixed Court of Appeals of Athens

The procedure started at 9:24 with a slight delay due to a room change, as there was no heating on the 6th floor, where the session would be normally held. Only the accused Athanasios Chortarias was physically present.

Pleas of the defendants

Defendant Chortarias declared his innocence, claiming that his action was very short and that he tried to disarm the victim. He also claimed that Zacharias Kostopoulos was commiting robbery while holding a knife. Ισχυρίστηκε ότι ο Ζαχαρίας Κωστόπουλος έκανε ληστεία και κρατούσε μαχαίρι.

The lawyer of defendant Dimopoulos – as the defendant himself was not present, which is his right – also pleaded innocence on behalf of his client, and also claimed that the subjective element of negligence was not met and that, during the events, he was in self-defense, according to article 22 of the Greek Criminal Code.

Examination of witnesses

The victim’s brother, Nikos Kostopoulos, as well as his mother, Eleni Kostopoulou, were the first to testify in support of the charge. The victim’s father, Efthimios, could not attend due to illness.

Nikos Kostopoulos spoke about his brother’s life, describing how he made a living for himself and was financially independent. He described the victim’s work in drag shows, films and a theatre production by Onassis Stegi. With regard to his health, he noted that Zak was HIV-positive for 9 years and was following treatment, something that did not affect his health otherwise.

Zak’s mother, Eleni Kostopoulos, started by describing the two defendants and their attitude during the trial in the first instance. More specifically, she mentioned that defendant Dimopoulos never apologized, that he said he would repeat what he did, and that he was constantly referring to his shop. About her son, she noted that he was a fighter and campaigner for all human rights.

Consecutively, witness K.S. was examined. She was Zak’s friend who was on the phone talking to him during the last minutes before the events that led to his death. She noted that he told her “don’t hang up”, she asked him “is something wrong? are you in danger?”. and then the victim replied, again: “yes, don’t hang up”.

During the examination of both Nikos Kostopoulos and K.S., lawyer Ioannis Glykas, for the defence of Chortarias, focused on the victim’s medical condition, filing a request to find and obtain Zak’s medical file and also calling any doctor that might have treated Zak to testify before the court.

The police officer, serving at the DIAS division at the time of the events, Konstantinos Michailidis, in his testimony recounted the incident and said the police had received a call for a robbery. He claimed that Zacharias Kostopoulos, covered in blood and falling to the ground, escaped from the police, broke a piece of glass and moved threateningly towards one of Michailidis’ colleagues.

The president of the court, judge Alexandra Vasilakakou, and the prosecutor, Stylianos Kostarellos, focused largely on questions about the victim’s possible health problems and if he did use drugs and alcohol.

Arrest of cartoonist

Cartoonist Panagiotis Mitsombonos, who was present with a permission by the court to create sketches from the proceedings, was arrested when it was found that he had taken photographs inside the hall. He was taken in custody until he testifies in front of a prosecutor, and after that he will be facing trial for taking photos inside a courtroom, which is prohibited by law in Greece.

At 14:53 the court adjourned and will resume proceedings on Friday 26 January 2024 in courtroom D120A, on the 6th floor of the Court of Appeals building in Athens.

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