A Greek police officer has appeared in court in northern Greece over the shooting and serious injury of a Roma teenager during a police chase over an allegedly unpaid petrol station bill, with protesters gathering outside the court.
About 200 friends, relatives and other protesters from the Roma community gathered on Friday outside the court in Thessaloniki, holding up photos of the wounded 16-year-old and calling for justice.
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Monday’s shooting prompted days of violent protests by members of the Roma community in Greece’s second-largest city, as well as Athens and other areas.
“It wasn’t the petrol, it wasn’t the money, the cops shot because he was Roma,” the protesters chanted on Friday.
Community leaders called for a peaceful protest outside the court, and demanded the police officer be remanded into custody pending trial.
“We want justice. The crime was racist,” said Panagiotis Sabanis, head of the Roma Federation of Central and Western Macedonia. “There is racism against us in Greece. It’s not the first incident of a police shooting against a Roma just because he is a Roma.”
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.
Andonis Tasios, general secretary of the Roma community where the boy lives, was among the protesters outside the court on Friday.
“They shot him because of his colour. If he wasn’t Roma, they wouldn’t have done it,” he said.
Members of the Roma community in Greece have long faced discrimination and many often live on the margins of society.
The 16-year-old, who was chased by motorcycle police after he allegedly drove away from a petrol station without paying a 20-euro ($20) bill on Monday morning, was hit in the head and remains hospitalised in a critical condition.
The 34-year-old police officer who fired the shot has been suspended and faces charges of attempted manslaughter with possible intent and illegally firing his weapon.
Police have said the youth tried to ram one of the motorcycles involved in the pursuit with his pick-up truck, and that two shots were fired in an attempt to stop the truck from hitting the vehicle.
In a preliminary court appearance earlier in the week, the police officer said he fired his weapon because he feared for the lives of his colleagues but he had not aimed at the youth.
During his questioning on Friday, the officer said the youth had tried to ram the motorcycle three times.
The shooting has sparked days of violent protests, with vehicles and at least one business torched and police coming under shotgun fire.
Greece’s state-run ERT broadcaster said on Friday that one police officer had been lightly injured by shotgun pellets during unrest overnight west of Athens.