Four Greek police officers have been charged for inflicting “fatal bodily harm” on gay activist Zak Kostopoulos after a lynch mob attacked him.
CCTV camera footage of the incident led investigators to identify four policemen who were accused of beating the 33-year-old gay man while he was lying on the pavement as they proceeded to handcuff him.
An examining magistrate gave the officers until December 12 to prepare their defence statements, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Monday (December 3).
Kostopoulos’ death on the streets of Athens on September 21 shocked the local and international LGBT+ community, leading to protests both in the Greek capital and outside Greek consulates in foreign countries such as Australia and Italy.
What happened to Zak Kostopoulos?
In the video footage, which was widely shared on social media and on Greek news channels, Kostopoulos was seen trapped inside a jewellery shop on Gladstonos Street, near Athens’ central Omonia Square.
Kostopoulos used a fire extinguisher to break the glass of the shop window. As he crawled through the broken glass, the shop owner and another man who had been witnessing his struggle from outside the shop appear to kick him repeatedly, with a final kick to the head sending Kostopoulos lying on the pavement.
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At that point, a few passersby intervened to defend Kostopoulos, but a larger crowd gathered around the man, with some people still kicking him as he lied on the pavement.
Kostopoulos was eventually taken away on a stretcher, handcuffed, but he died before reaching the hospital.
Zak Kostopoulos remembered for his advocacy
Police initially described Kostopoulos as a drug addict who had entered the shop armed with a knife to commit a robbery—a depiction his friends rejected.
Those who knew Kostopoulos remembered him someone who “loved to help” others and a pioneering advocate for the acceptance of HIV-positive people in Greece.
“His actual name is Zacharias, coming from the greek word ‘zachari,’ which means sugar. His name was literally sugar, and he was the sweetest person I’ve known,” his friend and journalist Christina Michalou told PinkNews in September.
An autopsy, however, failed to find any traces of drugs in Kostopoulos’ body and it remains unclear whether a knife reportedly found in the jewellery shop had his fingerprints or DNA on it.
The coroner determined Kostopoulos died of a heart attack after the brutal beating, Kathimerini reported.
Kostopoulos’ family is seeking murder charges for all those involved in his death, including the jewellery shop owner who beat him and the police officers. They are also planning legal action against the ambulance services and the police motorcycle-riding unit DIAS, according to Kathimerini.
The activist, who was born in the US, was laid to rest in the village of Kirra, where he grew up. At the funeral, mourners celebrated his role in the LGBT+ community and his performance as drag queen Zackie Oh, covering his coffins in glitter, wigs, and tiny rainbow flags.