By Jon Silverman
Home affairs analyst
An anti-capitalist Briton awaiting trial says Greek police planted
Molotov cocktails and other weapons on him. Perhaps uniquely, there is
video footage of the arrest which supports his case.
of the fabric of set piece events like the G8, World Trade Organisation or
European Union summits that the media takes them for granted.
But the tactics used by the police on such occasions, often with the
support of politicians, deserve regular scrutiny because important
civil liberties are at stake. The fact that a Briton and two Spaniards are in
jail in Greece, facing sentences of up to 25 years, is a case in point.
Simon Chapman, of Basildon in Essex, was one of many protesters at the
most recent EU summit held at Thessaloniki in June. He was with what he
calls the "anti-authoritarian/anarchist bloc" when the police decided
to make arrests.
They fired CS gas canisters and allegedly used their batons to beat
Simon to the ground, where he was also kicked. His head injuries
required stitches. At the point of arrest, he was wearing a rucksack,
the main purpose of which, he says, was to carry his water bottle. But
he was charged with possessing something much more sinister - a cluster
of Molotov cocktails, an axe and a hammer. Hence the jail term he faces
Caught on camera
Many arrested people have sought to discredit the police by alleging
the planting of evidence. It is particularly common in drugs cases.
But Simon's allegations carry rather more weight because a cameraman
from Greek television was recording the sequence of events. The shot of
the arrest clearly shows Simon, as he says, with a rucksack coloured
blue and purple.
The lens then switches to the other side of the road where a police
officer is displaying an open black rucksack containing the Molotov
cocktails, and other weapons. Two police officers carry this bag across
the road and dump it on the pavement next to Simon. The sequence ends
with Simon surrounded by three black rucksacks. Meanwhile, the blue and
purple one - his own - has disappeared.
Simon's family is taking legal advice to see whether it is possible to
compel the police to identify which officers were involved in the
arrest. And they are urging the Greek authorities - through the
ambassador in London - to examine the video footage which, they say,
shows the evidence being planted. This was made available both to the
judge and prosecutor but has not, so far, been admitted as part of the
The MP for Basildon, Angela Smith, is pressing both the Foreign Office
and the Greek ambassador to ensure that any trial is conducted fairly.
"There are big question marks over this evidence and if the Greek
police are going to retain credibility they will have to deal with claims that
the weapons were planted on Simon," she says.
A spokesman for the Greek embassy in London says it is inappropriate to
comment on the case because the matter is before the courts.
The Chapman case is reinforced by allegations made by two Spaniards
that the police in Thessaloniki told them they would plant Molotov cocktails
Thessaloniki was not the first summit at which allegations of planted
evidence have been made.
Italian police protecting the G8 leaders at the Genoa summit in 2001
were also accused of underhand tactics. On that occasion, a
demonstrator was killed and a carabinieri officer stood trial for murder.
After he was acquitted, he told a TV interviewer: "I've been used to
cover-up the responsibility of others." The officer is now in hospital
after a bad car crash which his lawyer has described as "suspicious".
It is not just the anti-globalisation movement which smells
conspiracies at work.