Greece braces for violence-prone annual commemoration of 1973 uprising

An anti-riot policeman walks past flames as a petrol bomb exploded in downtown Athens during clashes on November 17, 2018 against demonstrators. (AFP file)
Updated 17 November 2019

Greece braces for violence-prone annual commemoration of 1973 uprising

  • This year the protest looks set to be dominated by opposition to the new conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis
  • ‘Laws and regulations are needed for Greek citizens to feel safe’

ATHENS: Five thousand police will deploy in Athens on Sunday for an annual demonstration marking the anniversary of a 1973 anti-junta uprising that regularly descends into violence, authorities say.
This year the protest looks set to be dominated by opposition to the new conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, elected in July on a pledge to strengthen law and order.
The demonstration marks the 46th anniversary of a student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic against the US-backed military dictatorship that ruled Greece at the time.
In recent years, demonstrators have used the anniversary to voice opposition to US “imperialism,” and the harsh austerity measures imposed on Greece by international creditors after the global financial crisis.
Mitsotakis’s administration has already come under fire over police operations against anarchist squats and demonstrators.
There is also tension over a recent amendment to facilitate police checks in universities, which has prompted several student demonstrations.
“We need to be careful these days, and (public) comments must be guarded,” the Polytechnic’s rector Andreas Bantouvas said this week.
“We will be there with 5,000 officers,” police unionist Stavros Balaskas told Ellada radio.
Athens mayor Kostas Bakoyannis urged respect for the city.
“On this anniversary, let’s send out the right message. A shared message about memory. We should not obscure the essence which is the struggle of youth for democracy. On this anniversary, let’s show respect toward the city,” he said in a Facebook message on Friday.
Throwing a Molotov cocktail — a fairly frequent occurrence at demonstrations in Greece — will now be punishable by up to 10 years in prison, instead of five years previously.
“Laws and regulations are needed for Greek citizens to feel safe,” Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras told lawmakers ahead of the vote in parliament.
On Monday, some 200 students demonstrating at the Athens University of Economics were surrounded by anti-riot police who used tear gas and arrested two protesters.
The anti-junta demonstration is a treasured anniversary for many Greeks, with over 10,000 people taking part last year.
The bloodstained Greek flag that flew over the Polytechnic’s iron gate crushed by a tank that night is traditionally carried at the head of the demonstration in the capital.
At least 24 people were killed in the 1973 military crackdown on the student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic.
The event is generally considered to have broken the junta’s grip on power and helped the restoration of democracy.


White House rejects participation in ‘baseless’ impeachment probe against Trump

Updated 34 min 17 sec ago

White House rejects participation in ‘baseless’ impeachment probe against Trump

  • The House Judiciary Committee is to meet starting Monday to review the evidence from investigators and decide whether to charge Trump with abuse of power, bribery and obstruction
WASHINGTON: The White House blasted the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump as “completely baseless” Friday, signaling it would not seek to defend the president in Democratic-led hearings to draw up formal charges against him.
But Republicans demanded that Joe Biden’s son Hunter, the lawmaker leading the impeachment probe Adam Schiff, and the whistleblower at the origin of the inquiry all testify next week before the House Judiciary Committee.
“As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness,” White House chief lawyer Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to the committee chair, Jerry Nadler.
“House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings,” he wrote.
Cipollone issued the letter minutes before a deadline to declare whether the White House would deploy representatives to defend Trump against accusations he abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to find dirt on former vice president Biden, his potential challenger in the 2020 election.
Nadler’s committee is to meet starting Monday to review the evidence from investigators and decide whether to charge Trump with abuse of power, bribery and obstruction.
Those charges could become articles of impeachment sent to the full House to vote on within weeks.
If they pass the Democratic-led House as expected, it would make Trump only the third president in US history to be impeached.
That would set up a trial next month in the Republican-controlled Senate, seen as likely to acquit him.
Trump is accused of pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into Biden and his son, and also into a widely-dismissed theory that Ukraine helped Democrats in the 2016 election.
The US leader is accused of demanding Zelensky announce the investigations in exchange for the release of military aid and a high-profile summit — which Democrats say constitutes bribery.
Democrats also say Trump’s actions amount to soliciting foreign interference in American elections — which is barred by US laws.
Trump denies any wrongdoing but has refused to cooperate with the inquiry, citing his privilege as president to prevent top aides from testifying.
Cipollone told Nadler in the letter that adopting articles of impeachment “would be a reckless abuse of power” and constitute “the most unjust, highly partisan, and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our nation’s history.”

Blocking 'key evidence'
He repeated Trump’s tweet of Thursday: “If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our country can get back to business.”
In a statement Nadler accused Trump of continuing to block “key evidence” from Congress.
“We gave President Trump a fair opportunity to question witnesses and present his own to address the overwhelming evidence before us,” Nadler said.
“If the President has no good response to the allegations, then he would not want to appear before the committee. Having declined this opportunity, he cannot claim that the process is unfair.”
Meanwhile the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins, announced a list of witnesses his camp wishes to subpoena “to provide context and transparency about the underlying facts at issue.”
Besides Schiff, the list includes Hunter Biden and his business partner Devon Archer, who both sat on the board of a Ukraine energy company Burisma, which Trump allegedly pressured Zelensky to investigate.
Also included were the whistleblower, believed to be a CIA analyst who reported his concerns about Trump’s demands of Zelensky; possible government contacts of the whistleblower; White House national security official Alexander Vindman, whose earlier testimony strongly supported the allegations against Trump.
With the exception of Vindman, there was little likelihood Nadler would accept the witness list.