Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ethnic Greek's murder in Himare sparks protests, Athens reaction


The death of a 37-year-old ethnic Greek man in the coastal Albanian town of Himare on Thursday, who was reportedly run down for speaking Greek in his own shop, sparked a demonstration by local residents, who blocked a busy main highway for several hours on Friday morning in protest.

According to eyewitness reports from the township, Aristotelis Goumas was rammed by a car while riding his motorcycle and fatally injured. Three Albanian men from the central Albanian town of Vlore reportedly first confronted him in his shop, before assaulting him and finally crashing their car into his motorcycle.

Three suspects were charged in the incident, as Albanian authorities initially arrested six men, while local media on Friday referred to a traffic accident instead of a possible homicide. No police press release was issued.

In statements after the deadly incident, Himare Mayor Vassilis Bolanos emphasized that this is "a premeditated crime, as the perpetrators had been provoking the victim for days." Bolanos also referred to phenomena of ethnic intolerance, which he said harm Albanian society.

In Athens, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said the incident and information that the alleged perpetrators acted out of ethnic prejudice have unnerved the ethnic Greek minority in the neighbouring country.

"Such unacceptable and criminal acts aim to generate ethnic tension, with unforeseen consequences, and to undermine Greek-Albanian bilateral relations . The Albanian government must guarantee the proper and swift dispensation of justice, something that will comprise the only answer, in practice, to the reasonable concerns of the Greek national minority in Albania," the spokesman added.

Finally, Delavekouras said the Greek foreign ministry is closely and continuously monitoring all of the issues affecting the Greek minority in Albania, underlining that the respect and protection of ethnic Greeks' rights and security, beyond the self-evident obligation of the Albanian government, is also mandated by international law and the European acquis communautaire, "for which Albania desires integration".

The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) also sharply condemned the incident and called on Athens to take all necessary measures to ensure that a full investigation and subsequent judicial actions are taken.

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