Greece: Police officer appears in court over teen shooting

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A police officer appeared before a court in northern Greece on Tuesday over the shooting of a teenager who allegedly failed to pay a gas station bill, as protesters gathered outside.

The 16-year-old, a member of the Roma minority, is in critical condition in a hospital in Thessaloniki. The 34-year-old police officer who allegedly shot him in the head was suspended from duty and arrested. He appeared in court Tuesday morning on a felony charge of attempted manslaughter with possible intent and a misdemeanor count of illegally firing his weapon.

He asked for and was granted more time to prepare his defense, as is common in the Greek justice system, before he appears before an investigating magistrate. He will appear in court again on Friday.

Scuffles broke out between police and the protesters gathered outside the courthouse, who held up a banner reading: “It wasn’t the gas, it wasn’t the money, the cops shot because he was Roma.”

The shooting occurred outside Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, before dawn Monday. Officers from a motorcycle patrol chased the teenager’s pickup truck after a gas station employee reported the unpaid bill of 20 euros ($21).

The court appearance coincides with the anniversary of the 2008 fatal police shooting of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos in Athens that sparked Greece’s worst riots in decades. Protest marches commemorating Grigoropoulos often turn violent.

On Monday night, about 1,500 people took part in a protest march organized by left-wing and anarchist groups in central Thessaloniki over the latest shooting. Some smashed shops and threw Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.

Police detained six people after the end of the march.

Several hundred people also took part in a peaceful demonstration Monday in central Athens over the teen’s shooting as well as a past incident in which a Roma man also was shot during a police chase. The demonstrators in Greece’s capital had a banner, reading: “They shot them because they were Roma.” Brief clashes broke out with police after the protest ended.

Members of the Roma community in Greece and human rights activists frequently accuse Greek authorities of discriminating against Roma. Several Roma men have been fatally shot or injured in recent years during confrontations with police while allegedly seeking to evade arrest for breaches of the law.

The injured youth was not named but was identified by relatives as a member of the Roma minority.