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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 1 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 31
Athens police assault Gay couple
Section One
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Athens police assault Gay couple

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Gay couple was assaulted by Greek police while walking hand-in-hand through old town Athens on July 25, according to LIFO magazine.

George Kounanis and Harry Vassilakis told the Greek publication they were harassed by as many as ten police officers. One of them grabbed Kounanis' hand and then shoved him up against a wall.

'This is what real violence is,' the officer said.

The couple called an emergency helpline, but were directed to call Athens police headquarters instead. The men said they now feel helpless and frightened.

'We feel as if we're in a psychological maze,' Vassilakis said. 'We feel totally helpless. We feel harassed by those who are supposed to protect us.'

Gay sex has been legal in Greece since 1951, and there are limited anti-discrimination protections in Greek law. The center-right coalition governing Greece recently put forward a proposed hate crimes bill that covers sexual orientation - but not gender identity - in addition to race and national origin.

Lesbians are not acknowledged at all in Greek law.

Pride celebrations in Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city, regularly attract thousands of participants, and Greece is generally considered a safe destination for Gay and Lesbian tourists.

Greek police, however, are notoriously right-wing, and many are said to be supporters of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.

In the past few years, Athens police have been accused several times of beating and torturing non-Greek immigrants. In 2008, an Athens police officer shot and killed a 15-year-old high school student, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, touching off three weeks of riots.

The Greek Orthodox Church considers same-sex relations an 'abomination.' Nevertheless, during the series of scandals that rocked the church in 2004 and 2005 it was revealed that several Greek Orthodox bishops had boyfriends, and at least one politically influential abbot was arrested for raping some 21 novice monks.

Golden Dawn, Greece's far right political party, has gained support as the Greek economy spiraled down into seemingly incurable crisis. It is now Greece's third largest political party, with just under 10% of the votes in this year's election for seats in the European parliament. The party is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, and anti-Gay.

LIFO is a weekly magazine covering politics and popular culture.

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