Greece bans protests amid Turkish PM’s visit as teen killed by police commemorated
Greek protesters hold banners with pictures of both Alexis Grigoropoulos and Berkin Elvan.Athens is bracing for a tense weekend after the Greek government banned protests during the two-day official visit of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, which coincides with commemorations for the 2008 murder of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos on Dec. 6.
The 15-year-old Grigoropoulos was killed by a shot to the chest during an evening patrol during mass protests in Greece in 2008. Protesters say the innocent boy was killed by police, while the police claims it was acting in self-defense after a group of youths attacked officers.
After the Turkish teenager Berkin Elvan died in March following nearly nine months in a coma due to injuries sustained after being hit by a police tear gas canister during the Gezi protests, many Greek protesters commemorated him by carrying his picture alongside one of Grigoropoulos. The story of both teenagers killed in similar circumstances at the same age became the symbols of harsh police crackdowns of protesters in both countries.
Hundreds of Greeks attend the commemoration of Grigoropoulos’ killing every year.
“Taking into account the responsibilities we all have, I call on political parties, social groups and above all citizens, regardless of their political positions and views, to understand the seriousness and importance of these moments,” Greek Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias was quoted as saying by Kathimerini on Dec. 4.
Kathimerini reports that such bans have also been put in place in the past for other foreign leaders, including the tense trip of German Chancellor Angela Merkel – blasted by many Greeks for Germany’s attitude towards the country’s financial crisis.
Turkish Prime Minister Davutoğlu will head a large delegation of ministers who will attend the Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council in Athens.
Greek media says the ban will be imposed along the routes that Davutoğlu is expected to take during his visit, including the iconic Syntagma Square, which, just like Taksim Square in Istanbul, became the center of anti-government protests.
Despite the ban, student protests are scheduled outside the Athens University.
Alexis' friend on hunger strike
This year’s protests are also expected to take a more significant dimension as Grigoropoulos’ friend Nikos Romanos, now 21, is on the 25th day of his hunger-strike to demand his educational rights and his health is deteriorating. Romanos was with Grigoropoulos and saw him die during the shooting.
A Greek court cleared Roumanos of charges of being member of an urban anarchist guerilla group, “Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire,” but eventually convicted of taking part in an armed robbery in the northern town of Velvento in February of 2013.
During his time in prison, Roumanos prepared and won the exams of the School of Business Administration of Athens, but he was unable to leave prison to attend classes after a magistrate deemed him to be a flight risk.
Roumanos’ family has recently called on the justice minister to let him attend classes, warning that his life “was in great danger.”
'Very good neighboors'
After his arrival to Athens, Davutoğlu started his meetings with Greek President Karolos Papoulias in Athens, describing the two countries as “very good neighbors.”
“You can change everything apart from geography,” Davutoğlu said. “Hopefully we are two good neighbors. Only a few nations throughout history have so many things common.”
Papoulias said that such meetings would “take good ties to a higher level.”
“Mr. Prime Minister, we are two good neighbors and we will remain so,” he said.
Davutoğlu recalled that he had invited Papoulias to Turkey when he was serving as foreign minister and now was renewing his invitation as prime minister.
His visit comes at a time of high tension between the two countries over the issue of the divided island of Cyprus. However, the announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the South Stream pipeline carrying gas to Europe through Bulgaria will be scrapped in favor of creating a gas hub on the Turkish-Greek border has dominated the agenda of Davutoğlu’s visit.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkır are also part of a large delegation of officials who traveled to Greece.