Romani Woman Suffers Miscarriage after Being Beaten during Police Raid in Greece
07 May 2002
According to information provided by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a local partner of the ERRC in Greece, at approximately 11:00 AM on January 28, 2002, between 100 and 150 police officers raided the Romani settlement at Nea Zoe, in the town of Aspropyrgos in the Attica region, physically abusing several Roma, including a pregnant woman, in an apparent search for drugs. According to ERRC/GHM research, officers entered the settlement without showing a warrant, but in the alleged presence of a judicial officer, in two patrol cars, one truck with a white canvas cover, two other cars, as well as on foot. Upon entering the settlement, officers shouted at Roma outside their sheds to lie on the ground. Several officers reportedly stood over the Roma who were lying face down on the ground and aimed their guns at them, and one officer reportedly aimed his weapon at Argiro Panayotopoulou, a 13-year-old Romani girl.
According to a statement, given to ERRC/GHM on January 29, 2002, Ms Yannoula Tsakiri, a 21-year-old Romani woman, who was in the early months of pregnancy at that time, was reportedly standing outside one of the sheds, along with her grandmother and a 13-year-old disabled boy who could not walk. One of the officers allegedly shouted at the boy to stand up, and grabbed him to lift him when he did not comply. Ms Tsakiri reportedly informed the officer that the boy was disabled and could not walk and that she was pregnant. Ms Tsakiri stated that the officer then dropped the boy and shouted insults at Miss Tsakiri, kicking her in the lower back, which caused her to fall to the ground. Eye-witnesses have also testified that two police officers held the head of 22-year-old Mr Pavlos Christodoulopoulos while another officer repeatedly kicked him with his knee in the stomach. A police officer also reportedly slapped 22-year-old Mr Michalis Aristopoulos three times.
In the meantime, other officers were shouting at Roma in their sheds to come outside. In a statement given to ERRC/GHM on January 30, 2002, Miss Aikaterini Karayannopoulou, 17, reported that when police shouted at her to come outside, she was inside taking a bath. She reportedly asked the police to wait a bit because she was in the bath. Miss Karayannopoulou alleges that the officers then threatened her with sexual violence, broke into the bathroom and pulled her out. Although Miss Karayannopoulou reports that she had put a shirt on, she testifies that she was taken to another shanty, with an interior visible from outside, and bodily searched by female officers in the presence of male officers. According to the police press release dated January 28, 2002, at the time officers entered her home, Miss Karayannopoulou was attempting to throw away drugs.
During the raid, according to a police press release dated January 28, 2002, officers searched eleven houses. However, fifteen residents of the settlement have reported to ERRC/GHM that their homes were searched, and that all possessions inside their homes were destroyed by the officers. Witnesses stated that, once all the Roma were outside, some of the police officers allegedly gathered them together, regardless of age and sex, pointed their guns at them and began cursing their ethnicity. At this point, a police van arrived at the settlement and allegedly took between ten and fifteen Romani men to the Aspropyrgos police station. Although the Roma report that they were not handcuffed, local Roma state that they were subjected to body searches while in detention. One of the Roma, 19-year-old Mr Athanasios Sainis, was found to have a small amount of hashish on his person and was reportedly taken to another cell and asked by police to testify that he had bought the drugs from an elderly Romani man who had been arrested on the same day. Mr Sainis stated that he refused, and two police officers began beating him. When Mr Sainis still refused to testify, the police reportedly wrote in his deposition that he had bought the drugs from an elderly woman and signed it with an "X" for him.
At approximately 12:30 PM, the same van returned to the settlement, and between six and eight women and four children were taken to the Aspropyrgos police station by several plainclothes police officers. Upon arrival at the police station, female officers subjected the women to body searches.
The Roma were detained at the Aspropyrgos police station until approximately 8:00 PM on the same day. During this time, GHM reports that they were not given food or water by the police, nor was anyone allowed to bring this to them. Food was only brought to five Roma, who were indicted following the raid and had to spend the night at the police station. All of the Roma reported having their fingerprints and depositions taken.
On January 29, 2002, ERRC/GHM met with Ms Tsakiri, who testified that shortly after the officer kicked her, she began bleeding. GHM's associates noted on the day following the incident that Ms Tsakiri was still bleeding, and took her to the Elena Venizelou maternity hospital, where a doctor performed ultrasound tests on her. The tests showed that the bleeding was caused by a partially detached placenta, which, according to GHM, the doctor stated could have been caused by the blow. On February 1, 2002, Ms Tsakiri suffered a miscarriage while still in hospital. On the same day, GHM submitted a complaint against the police on behalf of Ms Tsakiri, with her permission, at the Misdemeanor Public Prosecution's Office.