Four police officers involved in the death of Greek LGBT+ activist Zak Kostopoulos have walked free – to the horror of rights groups.
Kostopoulos, 33, also know by his drag name Zackie Oh, was beaten to death in broad daylight in a central Athens jewellery shop on 21 September 2018.
Authorities and the media initially painted him as a thief, but when video footage began to circulate on social media, the true brutality of the attack of revealed.
As he desperately tried to crawl towards the door, Kostopoulos was relentlessly beaten by shop owner Spyros Dimopoulos and estate agent Thanassis Hortarias.
But his ordeal was far from over and, when police arrived on the scene, they violently arrested the LGBT+ activist, who put up no resistance and was clearly in need of medical attention. Shortly afterwards, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Gay, HIV-positive activist Zak Kostopoulos. (Zak Kostopoulos/ Facebook)
Previously discussing the video footage, Anny Paparousou, a lawyer representing Kostopoulos’s family, said: “He is clearly only half alive but they cuff him from behind, making any attempt at resuscitation impossible. It’s hard not to conclude that this was a hate crime.”
On Tuesday (3 May), a court handed both Dimopoulos and Hortarias 10-year sentences for their crimes.
But, to the horror of Greece’s LGBT+ community, all four police officers walked free, after a tribunal ruled by a four to three majority that they should be acquitted, according to The Guardian.
Kostopoulos’s family and their lawyer, Paparousou, have not yet said whether they plan to appeal the judgement at the Greek Supreme Court.
But Paparousou said in a statement: “It follows in the tradition of police violence never being punished even by our courts.
“While we welcome the guilty judgments we are disappointed and opposed to the four officers being set free when we have documented evidence of their participation in the crime.”
The LGBT+ community demands justice for Zak Kostopoulos at a protest in Athens on 3 May, 2022. (NurPhoto via Getty/ Nikolas Kokovlis)
Greece’s LGBT+ community took to the streets to demand justice for Zak Kostopoulos
When the court’s verdict was announced, human rights activists in the room shouted it was a “disgrace”, while protesters outside declared Zak Kostopoulos’s death an “assassination”, according to AFP.
Hundreds took to the streets to demand justice for the beloved LGBT+ activist.
Glykeria Arapi, director of Amnesty International’s Greece branch, said in a statement: “It [is] beggar’s belief that despite footage showing police using unnecessary force to arrest Zak while he lay dying on the ground, no officer has yet to be held to account.
“Today’s decision is yet another example in Greece where victims of unnecessary use of force and their families are left without justice.
“Zak Kostopoulos will not be forgotten. Indeed, he has become a symbol of the fight for a society of freedom and equality.
“We take the ruthlessness of his senseless death and the injustice of today’s decision personally. In response we will redouble our efforts to make Zak’s vision – a world free from prejudice, stigma and racism – a reality.”