THESSALONIKI, GREECE (AP) – A court in Greece ordered the release on bail of a police officer accused of fatally injuring a Roma teenager during a car chase over an allegedly unpaid gas station bill. The teen’s father plans to appeal Monday’s decision to free the officer pending trial, a Roma community leader said.
The December 5 shooting of Kostas Frangoulis, a 16-year-old father of one, triggered days of protests which often turned violent, despite calls for restraint by the teenager’s family and Roma community leaders. Frangloulis died last week after spending more than a week hospitalised in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.
The panel of judges that ordered the 34-year-old police officer’s release set one bail condition, prohibiting him from leaving the country.
Police have said the teenager tried to ram the police motorbikes chasing him after he allegedly drove off from a gas station in the northern city of Thessaloniki without paying a EUR20 (USD21) bill. The officer accused of shooting him has said he fired because he feared his colleagues’ lives were in danger, but said he was aiming at the pick-up truck’s tyres and not at the driver.
“The parents were very upset by this decision,” President of the Roma community of Central and Western Macedonia Panagiotis Sambanis said. Frangoulis’ father plans to appeal, Sambanis said.
“If we had done this, we’d already be behind bars,” Sambanis said. “Justice should have judged correctly. It didn’t judge correctly. It is an injustice for the 16-year-old.”
As he has done throughout the case, Sambanis called for calm. He said Roma community leaders would meet to discuss holding a protest march later in the week. “This protest will be peaceful. Things will not get out of hand,” he said.
Lawyer representing Frangoulis’ family Theofilos Alexopoulos, said Monday’s court decision was “wrong”, and called for an expert examination of a CCTV video which caught the incident in order to shed light on the exact circumstances of the shooting.
The case has put a spotlight on Greece’s Roma people, who face widespread discrimination and often live on the margins of society.