Fresh protests in Greece as Roma teenager dies after police shooting

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By Euronews  with AP
A policeman try to disperse protesters during a rally in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
A policeman try to disperse protesters during a rally in the northern city of Thessaloniki.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Dimitris Tosidis

A Roma boy died on Tuesday in Greece, one week after a police officer had shot him in the head during a chase.

Police had been pursuing the 16-year-old teenager over an alleged unpaid petrol station bill.

The hospital treating the boy, who has not been formally identified, said he was hospitalised in critical condition in the intensive care unit after undergoing emergency surgery, but that despite all efforts by medical staff, he died on Tuesday morning.

The shooting has led to days of often violent protests in Thessaloniki, Athens, and other parts of Greece by members of the Roma community, despite pleas by community officials and some members of the boy's family to maintain calm.

Clashes broke out in Thessaloniki on Tuesday when a group of protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas. At least 35 people were detained.

"Everyone here is crying. It is unjust for a child to leave like this," said Antonis Tasios, secretary of the Roma community where the teenager lived, confirming his death. "We have great pain."

“I call on everyone, on all of Greece, on all Roma, to remain calm above all else about this event,” added Panagiotis Sambanis, president of the Roma community of Central and Eastern Macedonia.

The Roma community has denounced the shooting as having racist motives. Members of the community in Greece have long faced discrimination, and many often live on the margins of society.

Several Roma men have been injured or fatally shot in recent years during confrontations with police while allegedly seeking to evade arrest for breaches of the law.

The 34-year-old police officer accused of firing the shot has been suspended and under house arrest since Friday. A court is set to decide on whether he should face trial for attempted manslaughter with possible intent and a misdemeanour count of illegally firing his weapon.

Police have said the teenager tried to ram the police motorbikes involved in the chase with his pickup truck. The officer also claimed last week that he had fired his weapon because he feared for the lives of his colleagues.

Citizens' Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos, who has jurisdiction over Greek police, tweeted his “deep sorrow for the death of the 16-year-old boy” and extended his condolences to the teenager's family.

“I repeat that this case is being investigated by the judicial system, which is the only one competent to assess the facts and judge responsibilities,” the minister wrote. “Let us all respect that.”

More than 1,500 mourners gathered in a Roma settlement in northern Greece on Thursday for the teenager's funeral.