Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday proposed police reform amid accusations of too harsh tactics by the force to quell protests against government policies.
The beating of a man by police during checks for compliance with COVID-19 restrictions and subsequent clashes with protesters have revived memories of violence during the country’s decade-long debt crisis. .
Greek authorities are investigating allegations of police violence and one officer has been suspended. During the clashes on Tuesday, another officer was seriously injured.
The leader of the left-wing Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, accused the conservative Mitsotakis of seeking a police state and trying to divert attention from the “flagrant failure” in the fight against the pandemic, with many parts of Greece still in lockdown.
“You are beating up the young generation in the universities in the morning and in the parks at night,” Tsipras said. “You have the audacity to claim that the protests are the reason for the course of the pandemic.”
In response, Mitsotakis condemned the attacks and accused Syriza of fueling the protests, saying police violence was a global problem and Greece did not have a bad record.
Mitsotakis proposed that police officers wear body cameras, as well as better training and psychometric testing for new recruits.
The protests often turn violent in Greece, which is emerging from a deep financial and social crisis and has long been criticized by human rights groups for its harsh police tactics.
An ombudsman said this week that reports of police violence had increased as frustration grew after a year of COVID-19 restrictions.
Greece is bracing for possible new protests amid concern over the state of Dimitris Koufodinas, a leftist militant serving multiple life sentences for murder and on hunger strike for more than two months.
Authorities fear his death will spark new violence on the streets.