Protest staged outside Greek court, rallies planned

Other News Materials 15 December 2008 15:35 (UTC +04:00)

Protesters hurled eggs at police outside an Athens court on Monday and rallies were planned later in the day in a second week of anti-government protests in Greece since the police shooting of a teenager, reported Reuters.

Some 50 demonstrators confronted police outside the main Athens court, where a hearing took place for dozens of people arrested during Greece's worst riots in decades, sparked by the killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6.

The scale and intensity of the protests has tailed off sharply and Athens was peaceful on Sunday. But students, unions and leftist groups have called demonstrations this week against the conservative government, which has a one-seat majority.

Last week's protests fed on growing anger over political scandals, high youth unemployment and low wages, and the impact of a global recession on Greece's 240 billion euro economy.

"It was expected this would continue for a second week," said Kiki Toudoulidou, 37, a teacher. "If the government was handling the situation in the right way, we wouldn't have reached this point."

Further protests were planned for Monday outside parliament and police headquarters, while an anarchist group has convened a march to parliament at 1600 GMT. Students and unions also scheduled protests on Wednesday and Thursday against education and pension reforms, privatizations and tax rises.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis's ruling New Democracy party has denounced the riots as the work of a small group of hardcore anarchists, but at their peak early last week thousands of youths ran riot through 10 Greek cities, wrecking hundreds of cars, banks and businesses.

Karamanlis, whose hands-off response to the riots has been criticized by Greek media, traveled to Cyprus on Monday for the funeral of former president Tassos Papadopoulos.

An opinion poll published on Sunday by Kathimerini newspaper put disapproval of the government at 68 percent, with 60 percent of those polled saying the riots were a social uprising rather than an outburst by an isolated fringe of violent protesters.

The National Confederation of Commerce estimates 565 shops were damaged in Athens, causing more than 200 million euros of damage and ruining the Christmas shopping period. Central Athens was quiet on Monday as many shoppers stayed away.

"There is no business. People are disappointed and angry," said Dimitra, 61, a shopowner who declined to give her second name. "The protests will continue. They only needed an excuse."

The policeman charged with killing Grigoropoulos has been jailed along with a colleague pending trial, while more than 400 protesters have been detained during the unrest, but most of them have been subsequently released without charge.

A parliamentary committee was due to unveil on Monday the findings of its enquiry into a government landswap with an Orthodox monastery which an initial prosecutor's report suggested had cost the taxpayer more than 100 million euros.

Greece was ranked as the most corrupt country in the euro zone by the Berlin-based Transparency International watchdog in its latest global survey of corruption perceptions.