Police Deny Terror, Heist Suspects Tortured

bank robberies1Greek law enforcement officials have reiterated their assertion that four men arrested for bank robberies and believed to belong to a terrorist cell were not beaten while in custody, despite photos that show they were clearly bruised and injured.

Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias earlier said the photos of the suspects were doctored to erase the marks but defended it as necessary for accurate identifications. The head of the Greek Police force’s Internal Affairs department, Panagiotis Stathis, told reporters on Feb. 8 the injuries were sustained when they resisted arrest and fought with police.

At a news conference, Stathis played a video showing three young men sitting on the ground, their faces apparently bearing injuries despite being partially obscured by hoods, and an an armed policeman standing in the foreground. Stathis noted that the policemen involved in the arrest were all “well-built” and stronger than the suspects, aged 20-24.

Police photographs of the four suspects, bearing heavy bruises to their faces, prompted an outcry in the media and by rights groups. Indications that some of the photographs were doctored, to conceal the presence of police officers’ hands constraining the suspects or to tone down the bruising, provoked strong criticism.

All four robbbery suspects have been linked to the urban guerilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, while police said they believe the young men could be the perpetrators behind a bomb blast at The Mall shopping and entertainment center in northern Athens in January. Last week jailed members of Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire said the four young suspects were not members of their group.