Greek court convicts two killers of Gay activist: Cops let off the hook

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Zak Kostopoulos — Photo by Morikis Grigoris
Zak Kostopoulos — Photo by Morikis Grigoris

A Greek court has convicted two of the killers of Gay activist Zak Kostopoulos of "causing fatal bodily harm." Four police officers charged in the killing were acquitted due to a split decision of the judges.

The May 3 decision came more than two years after Kostopoulos's death. The trial had been postponed several times due to the COVID pandemic.

Kostopoulos was a well-known and well-loved figure in Athens' LGBTQ community: a famous drag queen who performed under the name "Zakie Oh," the president of OLKE (the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece), and a spokesperson for HIV-positive people in Greece.

On September 21, 2018, he entered a jewelry shop in central Athens. No one knows why he went into the shop, but the owner assaulted him, calling out that Kostopoulos was robbing him.

The owner was joined by another man, who owned a nearby real estate office. They beat Kostopoulos inside the shop, and again in the street after Kostopoulos broke through a display window in an effort to escape.

Security cameras show other bystanders throwing chairs from a streetside café at Kostopoulos. Eventually police arrived, and cameras show four of them beating Kostopoulos as he lay injured on the ground.

The police then handcuffed him, threw him in a police van, and took him to a local police station, where he died in custody.

The jewelry shop owner was sentenced to 10 years in prison, which was commuted to house arrest due to his age — 77 at the time of conviction. The real estate broker will serve his full 10-year sentence in prison.

The four police officers will go free, since the judges could not agree on a conviction.

Protests broke out in courtroom when the finding was announced, leading the presiding judge to threaten attendees with arrest. Among those in the courtroom to hear the verdict were Kostopoulos's family and Magda Fyssa, the mother of rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was murdered by neo-Nazis in 2013.

Kostopoulos was born in the US to a Greek-immigrant family who returned to Greece when he was 7. He was buried in the town of Kirra, where he grew up. Since his murder, Athens' LGBTQ community holds an annual march to commemorate his life.

Left-wing members of the Athens City Council proposed renaming the street where he was killed "Zak Kostopoulos Street" in his honor. The proposal did not pass, but a counterproposal established a monument against intolerance, racism, and hate.