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Greece: Trial begins in violent death of LGBTQ activist

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A police officer stands in a court in Athens on Oct. 7, 2020.
A police officer stands in a court in Athens on Oct. 7, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris   -  

A long-awaited trial for gay rights in Greece opened on Wednesday three years after the death of LGBTQ movement icon Zacharias Kostopoulos.

Kostopoulos died on September 21, 2018, at the age of 33 from injuries.

Six people are on trial in Athens criminal court, including four police officers, for injury resulting in death. They risk a maximum prison sentence of ten years.

More than 40 prosecution witnesses are to be heard, according to a judicial source.

Observers from Amnesty International and a representative of the Greek LGBTQ community were present in the courtroom, according to Greek news agency ANA.

The tragedy had caused a stir in Greece and elsewhere, particularly among the LGBTQ community to which the victim belonged.

Greek-American Zacharias Kostopoulos, known by his artist name "Zak/Zackie Oh", was a strong advocate for LGBTQ and HIV-positive rights.

He was severely beaten by two men, including the owner of a jewellery store in central Athens he allegedly tried to rob, according to police. He then broke the window to get out into the street where passers-by beat him up.

Police officers arrived, beat him and handcuffed him as he bled on the pavement, according to a video posted on social networks at the time. He was pronounced dead a few hours later at the hospital where he was transferred.

The autopsy indicated that he had suffered "an ischemic myocardial infarction as a result of serious injuries", according to the family's lawyer, Anna Paparoussou.

Amnesty International had described his death as a "lynching" and "murder", criticising the violence of the police intervention.

The highly anticipated trial had been halted at its start in October 2020 due to procedural issues related to anti-coronavirus measures.