Greek tragedy: how last phone call by murdered bank clerk touched off backlash May 20, 2010Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Yunanistan.
Tags: Greece, riots
Thousands of Greeks upset by the murder of a pregnant bank clerk have turned against the protesters who threaten Athens with anarchy.
A man leaves a candle on in front of the burnt Marfin bank in memory of the three employees who were killed in the bank.
In a land long used to people expressing their views through street violence, the crowd may not have looked that threatening at first. Stuck with her colleagues in an Athens bank last week as it was besieged by rioters, Angeliki Papathanasopoulou rang her mother to tell her not to worry.
“Mummy, don’t worry, I’m OK,” she said, as the sounds of protests against Greece’s new austerity measures echoed in the background. “They are just breaking the bank’s ATM machines and glass entrance downstairs using sledge hammers. But we are safe up here on the second floor. When I leave the job and go home, I’ll phone you.”
Fury at report clearing Greek police over death of schoolboyHer mother, Panayota, never did get another phone call. Instead, her 32-year-old daughter, who was four months pregnant, died along with two other colleagues on Wednesday after the demonstrators hurled firebombs through the broken windows, asphyxiating all three in clouds of toxic smoke. Angeliki’s last words, which were disclosed by her grieving mother yesterday, provide the final poignant, postscript to how a week of mounting frustration over the country’s debt crisis spiralled tragically out of control.
The deaths of the three bankers – whose offices were apparently targeted as a convenient symbol of capitalist greed – have shocked the country’s 11 million people, who now face years of belt-tightening as a condition of the 110 billion Euro bail-out signed off last week by the European Union and IMF. As a result, an extraordinary mood of contrition has befallen a nation of people known for hot-headedness. Gone are the rants against the country’s government the foreign institutions who now dictate its tune, and in their place has come a sense of national soul searching in which the Papathanasopoulou family’s grief is playing a central role.
Huge crowds attended Angeliki’s funeral on Friday in the picturesque port city of Egio, following on foot behind the casket as it wound its way through the narrow streets. Her father Zacharias, a 75-year-old lawyer, had to be supported by relatives, such was his grief, although he used the opportunity to express hope that his countrymen might learn from his daughter’s passing. “I can only hope that her death will not be in vain,” he said, in comments released yesterday. “I can only hope that it will serve as a lesson to our country so such things may never happen again”.
More than 170,000 Greeks have now joined a Facebook Group campaign with messages of condolences and appeals for action to arrest those responsible for the arson attack. Security police are scanning CCTV footage and other evidence which shows how hooded rioters – believed to be from Greece’s anarchist fringe – smashed the bank’s fortified windows with sledge hammers and tossed petrol bombs inside. Angeliki’s husband, Christos, was held later back by riot police as he tried to enter the bank to rescue her. The fact that all three of the dead were ordinary workers, not members of the super-rich, has added to the sense that the rioting – so long tolerated as a fact of life in Greece – was pointless and misplaced.
Angeliki’s close friend, Olga Driveri, said: “The couple were so happy at the prospect of their first child. Angeliki had a smile that would rarely leave her lips. Now, our entire town is in shock that she is no longer with us.”
Meanwhile, Euro-zone leaders worked into the small hours of yesterday at an emergency summit in Brussels to try and stop market contagion from the Greek crisis bringing down the European single currency.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, pledged “merciless combat” against “speculators” who have failed over the last week to be reassured by the Greek bail-out plan. “We can’t let the Euro fall,” he said. “The Euro is Europe and Europe is peace.”
Talks to finalise the Greek aid deal were expected to be finished over dinner on Friday night, but dragged on for nine hours as Spain and Portugal, along with others, expressed their fears that jittery markets were causing soaring interest rates for their own high levels of public debt, posing the risk that they too could go the way of Greece.
Diplomats present at the talks described them as “an unpleasant and uncomfortable mixture of helpless fury, desperation and mutual recrimination”.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, came under fire for “foot dragging” by allowing her domestic political concerns to slow down agreement of a German contribution of 22 billion euros (£24 billion) to the EU loans to Greece.
Mrs Merkel, regarded as the EU’s strongest leader before the crisis, faces losing her fragile coalition government majority after she failed to delay the Greek bailout until after a vital regional election in North Rhine-Westphalia today. German voters, furious at bailing out profligate high spending but under-performing Greece, are expected to punish Mrs Merkel at the polls.