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Greek Policeman Guilty Of Murder In Teen Death That Sparked 2008 Riots

ELENA BECATOROS   10/11/10 02:04 PM ET   AP

Greek Officer Guilty
Greek officer Epaminondas Korkoneas has been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of 15-year old Alexis Grigoropoulos.

ATHENS, Greece — A Greek policeman was convicted of murder and sentenced Monday to life imprisonment for the shooting of a teenager in central Athens that sparked nationwide riots in 2008.

In a 4-3 verdict, a panel of Greek judges and jurors found Epaminondas Korkoneas guilty of intentionally shooting 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Dec. 6, 2008, in the central Athens district of Exarchia, an area of bars and cafes popular with self-styled anarchists.

A second policeman, Vassilis Saraliotis, was convicted of complicity and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Both are expected to appeal.

Grigoropoulos' death led to the worst civil unrest Greece had seen in decades, with youths rampaging through cities almost nightly for two weeks, torching cars and buildings, smashing windows, looting stores and clashing with riot police. Smaller scale riots also broke out last December, on the anniversary of Grigoropoulos' death.

The teenager's killing also led to a resurgence of anarchist attacks, mostly focusing on police and government targets.

The dead youth's mother, Gina Tsalikian, speaking outside the court in central Greece, welcomed the verdict.

"I feel completely vindicated by the court's decision that was the result of a painful procedure for me during which light was shed on many aspects of this crime," she said. "What was proven is that a cold blooded murder was carried out for no reason against an innocent 15 year old boy, Alexis Grigoropoulos – my son."

Two of the three judges and one of the four jurors voted Monday for Korkoneas to be found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter with possible intent, which would have carried a lighter sentence. Korkoneas had insisted the boy was killed inadvertently by a ricochet when the policeman fired a warning shot following an altercation with youths during a night patrol in Exarchia.

The trial was held in Amfissa, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) west of Athens, for security reasons due to fears the procedure could lead to more rioting.

Alexis Kouyias, a lawyer for Korkoneas, criticized the procedures used during the eight-month trial, including the failure to examine testimony from a key witness. He said Korkoneas would appeal, exercising his automatic right under Greek law.

"I am confident that the court decisions to follow will be different to this one," he said.

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AP Television's Nathalie Rendevski Savaricas contributed to this report.

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Filed by Curtis M. Wong  |