On Friday 21 September, Zak Kostopoulos, died as a consequence of brutal beatings in Athens Greece. Zak was an HIV+, sex positive, queer, human rights’ activist and defender, also raising awareness performing as drag queen Zackie Oh.
We are mourning him, shocked at the lynching that led to his death, the way in which the police officers acted and the public discourse that was constructed and spread to legitimise the violence perpetrated. We have been dismayed at the way in which the investigation has been carried out by Greek authorities.
The footage of the attack indicate that Zak was inflicted inhuman and degrading treatment that amounts to torture. We call all relevant Greek authorities for a swift, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the events so that the perpetrators of the violence are brought to justice. The examination ought to take into consideration the motivation of the perpetrators.
We ask for due process and respect for the deceased, who if he were living would be presumed innocent. We call on the authorities to ensure the rule of law and respect for human life so that similar tragic events are not allowed to occur again.
See below for a timeline of events and links to relevant materials.
For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
A timeline regarding the death of Zak Kostopoulos
The incident took place on Friday 21.9.2018 between 14.00 and 15.00 in the centre of Athens, near Omonoia square.
From Friday night media reported that a thief died after trying to rob in a jewelry store. A video surfaced that shows the alleged thief to be beaten up by two unidentified persons while trying to escape the store. On Saturday, it was announced that the person was Zak Kostopoulos, an LGTBI, HIV activist, also performing as drag queen Zackie Oh.
Rumours started circulating in Greek about the person being under the influence of substances, carrying a knife, entering the shop to rob. Mainstream media constructed the narrative of a junkie trying to break in and steal. Fringe media also referring to as faggot, AIDS-patient, ‘he was asking for it’, ‘it served him right’.
This is when LGBTI, drag queen groups, community lawyers and civil society actors started to openly question the version provided by media. On Sunday, it was claimed that Zak Kostopoulos had entered the shop to escape a fight at the café nearby by where he was.
A discussion that remains low in media priorities: the brutal beating up of a person which amounts to inhumane, degrading treatment and torture as well as self-justice is unacceptable. This discussion is mainly put forth by community and citizens in social media. There is an uproar for media -both mainstream and fringe- publishing polls moralizing self-justice and the right for property over the right for life.
There is also a discussion about the fact that the store owner -later identified as one of the person that assaulted- cleans up the broken glass from the pavement, actually counterfeiting the crime scene.
On Sunday, one of the two persons who beat up Zak, was put under investigation and has been released under restrictive measures since then. The second assaulter, a neighbouring real estate store owner with links to extreme right groups, was identified on Wednesday and was put under investigation on Friday. He was released under restrictive measures as well.
On Monday, the coroners reported that the first autopsy was inconclusive regarding the cause of the death and that toxicological and histological examination results will be available later.
On Thursday, a video surfaced showing 8 police men holding Zak down to handcuff him exerting excessive violence. The events in this video follow chronologically those from the first one. The Minister of Citizen Protection -in charge of the police- stated that they will investigate the case thoroughly.
On Friday, investigation concluded that there were no fingerprints in a knife that allegedly Zak was carrying. Media reported that a knife was found outside the store and it was thrown in the store after by an unknown person. A witness claimed that it was a food knife that Zak found from the café opposite and used to protect himself while he was held down.
Greek Civil Society:
Last updated: 30.9.2018
Click here to download the press release
You can download an earlier draft of the timeline in German here