Παρασκευή 19 Μαρτίου 2021

Greek government attempts to cover up a fatal road accident involving a car belonging to MP's security fleet

This post is written as my own personal account of how I found out about the story and how I had to piece the information together from social media and independent news outlets to get the full picture. Which is this: 


A car belonging to the security fleet of Dora Bakoyannis - MP and sister of PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis - violated the traffic code to make a sharp left turn on Vasilissis Sofias Ave. in Athens in order to enter the garage of the Greek Parliament building. A motorcyclist was legally driving in the opposite direction and could not avoid collision with the car. The motorcyclist was seriously injured. The police officers on guard shooed away an eyewitness and ordered the security bar to open for the car to enter the garage. Later the same day - 12 March - Dora Bakoyannis went for a walk in Zappeio park with her family, with photos posted to a lifestyle news site named "Ladylike". Footage of the scene of the accident was not broadcast on mainstream media, but went viral on Twitter. The post on Ladylike was later changed to include a sentence  saying that the photos were taken on 27 February and uploaded 12 March. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old motorcyclist was proclaimed clinically dead, with his family distraught and questions unanswered; despite their sorrow, they decide to donate the victim's organs. Not a word from the media or from the government. By 14 March, the accident was trending on Twitter with hashtag #τροχαιοβουλη = "road accident at the Parliament". Seeing that their efforts to evade publicity did not succeed, Dora Bakoyannis posted on Facebook a little over 48 hours after the accident (note: 48 hours is the time period warranting "In flagrante delicto" arrest in Greece) and tweeted a screenshot of her FB post to Twitter. The family pleaded for eyewitnesses to come forward. The mainstream media started reporting briefly on the accident, reverberating the police statements that an investigation has been instigated and justice shall be served. As of Tuesday 16 March the mainstream media have either made very brief mention to the accident, or none at all. Update Friday 19 March: a week later, questions remain unanswered. The victim's organs were donated by his family and some have already been transplanted. The mainstream sites have now reported on the incident, with some channels reporting that the same violation is still being made by police and security vehicles entering the Parliament garage. However absolutely no mention has been made to the progress of the investigation. 


Read on for details of the scandalous handling of an innocent victim's death by the "New Democracy" governing party of Greece. 


Greece has been experiencing extreme police brutality over the course of the pandemic. Citizens are outraged and numerous demonstrations have taken place, at which primarily civilians have been injured. When a police officer is injured, the government is quick to make statements on the mainstream TV channels. When the injured are civilians, we often need to turn to social media and independent sites to get the story. The PM recently expressed his dislike for the public's trust of social media in a recent speech in the Parliament.

 The story

On Sunday 14 March at around 12 noon I signed in to Twitter to check the trending hashtags. One of them was #τροχαιοβουλη, indicating that it was about a road accident near the Parliament building in Athens. I hadn't heard a word of the incident on TV so I figured it was very recent. While scrolling down the tweets I was shocked to see links with "a day ago". A couple of seconds later there were links marked "two days ago". It turns out the accident happened Friday 12 March at around noon and it involved a motorcycle and a car belonging to the security fleet of the government, namely to Dora Bakoyannis, New Democracy MP and the PM's sister. The motorcyclist was seriously injured and sent to hospital by ambulance. Next step was to check Bakoyannis's social media accounts, expecting to find a mention of the incident. THERE WAS NONE. 

After scanning through the tweets, I googled "τροχαιο βουλη" and got a few results, however none from the mainstream news sites. One site had posted footage filmed shortly after the accident - while the motorcyclist was still on the pavement - in which an eyewitness was protesting to the police officer on the scene of the accident about why they let the car leave. The officer shooed him away and threatened to fine the eyewitness for not wearing a safety helmet. 


I then returned to check Bakoyanni's account again and there it was: a tweet posted over 48 hours after the incident, saying how deeply shattered she was and sending thoughts and prayers to the family. 


Screenshot from Dora Bakoyannis Twitter feed: The bottom tweet is dated 12 March and refers to the approval of erection of a new courthouse in the prefecture of Chania, Crete. The top tweet is dated 14 March and mentions that while she was attending a session inside the Parliament there was an accident involving a car of her security guard and a 23-year-old motorcyclist named Iasonas, who was heavily injured. She ends by sending thoughts and prayers to the family and stating that the incident will be investigated and those accountable punished.


Three questions probably arise in the reader's mind:


1) Why would the government want to attempt a cover-up?

2) After the cover-up failed and the incident went viral, why the 48-hour wait before Dora Bakoyannis made a public statement? 

3) How do we know that she had the calm to go for a walk in a park after her driver caused a serious accident? 


And here are the answers: 


1) Police brutality

The ruling right-wing "New Democracy" party was elected in July 2019. To be fair, less than a year into their term they were called to face an unprecedented international crisis: the Covid-19 pandemic. Greece was one of the first countries to respond with immediate lockdown: knowing that the public health system could not withstand the pressure of a pandemic, the government set up a panel of experts on infectious diseases and all activities - including schools, retail and restaurants/bars -  were ceased early in March 2020. The first wave of Covid-19 in Greece was hailed as an international success, as the country suffered minor losses compared to the rest of Europe and the world. Meanwhile, no efforts were made by the govt to staff and equip its hospitals for the expected second wave: instead they chose to pour money to the mainstream media, hire cops and upgrade the police fleet. Thus the second wave did not fare well, with hospitals struggling to deal with up to 600 ICU covid-19 patients and 100 deaths a day, in a country of roughly 10 million. Greece has been in lockdown since November 2020, with the public growing restless as cops patrol the streets and fine, harass and assault civilians for minor offenses while politicians systematically violate restrictions. The extent of police brutality has exceeded every sense of rule of law in a supposed republic.* It thus makes sense that the government's declining popularity would not withstand more negative publicity from an accident involving an MP's security guard and so the coverup operation was deployed. And with a fully-equipped police force ready to defend even the most antidemocratic actions, they thought they could pull it off.  If it weren't for the social media which Kyriakos Mitsotakis so despises, the Greek govt would have gotten away with the impossible: the coverup of a fatal - as it soon turned out - road accident in front of the most guarded, patrolled and camera-monitored building in the entire Greek state.

2) In flagrante delicto arrest


According to the Greek criminal code, "aftoforo" as it is called in Greek - or "in flagrante delicto" arrest - of an offender is warranted for 48 hours after the offense. There have been many cases where the offender goes into hiding for 48 hours in order precisely to avoid getting arrested. In this case the offense was violation of article 43 of the traffic code (L.
Ν.2696/23.03.1999 ΦΕΚ.57α και αναπροσαρμογή Νόμων Ν.3542/02.03.2007/ΦΕΚ.50Α' & Ν.4530/30.03.2018/ΦΕΚ.59Α') (source ©: www.glavopoulos.gr)
2696/23.03.1999/Government Gazette 57A as amended by L. 3542/02.03/2007/G.G. 50A & L/ 4530/30.03.2018/G.G. 59A),
Ν.2696/23.03.1999 ΦΕΚ.57α και αναπροσαρμογή Νόμων Ν.3542/02.03.2007/ΦΕΚ.50Α' & Ν.4530/30.03.2018/ΦΕΚ.59Α') (source ©: www.glavopoulos.gr)
Νόμος Ν.2696/23.03.1999 ΦΕΚ.57α και αναπροσαρμογή Νόμων Ν.3542/02.03.2007/ΦΕΚ.50Α' & Ν.4530/30.03.2018/ΦΕΚ.59Α') (source ©: www.glavopoulos.gr)
which specifically stipulates that the driver of a vehicle involved in a road accident must stay on the site of the accident and not abandon the victim(s), regardless of whether they have been seriously injured or not. It is thus curious - to say the least - that the driver has yet to come forth, and that Dora Bakoyannis deemed that the appropriate time to issue a statement on social media was half an hour after the 48-hour period had expired. 

3) Archived version of website and Instagram post


 This is where it gets really interesting: 
Ladylike is an online news and lifestyle magazine, addressed primarily at women. On Friday 12 March Ladylike posted photos of MP Dora Bakoyannis, her son Kostas Bakoyannis (mayor of Athens), daughter-in-law Sia Kossoni (reporter on SKAI channel) and their children taking a leisurely walk in Zappeion park, near the Parliament building. Naturally, it is a pleasure to see prominent public figures using the same public parks as the general public, and in that sense there would be nothing wrong with the article. But when the prominent figures lie, it gets really annoying. 

Below is a screenshot of the lead-in to the article, as it was published on 12 March: 
May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Eurokinissi Γενικότερα, η Παρασκευή είναι μία πολύ καλή μέρα. Πόσο μάλλον όταν έχει και καλό καιρό. Έτσι, λοιπόν, η οικογένεια Μπακογιάννη εκμεταλλεύτηκε την ηλιόλουστη Παρασκευή στις 12 Μαρτίου και αποφάσισε να αξιοποιήσει δημιουργικά τον χρόνο της με μία μικρή απόδραση στην όμορφη περιοχή του Ζαππείου."

 translation: "Generally, Friday is a good day. More so when the weather is good. The Bakoyannis family thus decided to take advantage of the sunny weather on Friday 12 March and make a mini escape to the lovely surroundings of Zappeio park."

Here is a screenshot of the same article as it is today:

Translation: "The Bakoyannis family took advantage of the sunny weather on Saturday 27 February (the photos were uploaded to Papadakis Press agency on 12/03/21) and decided to make a mini escape to the lovely surroundings of Zappeio park".    
One might ask: how do we know the first screenshot is original, and not tampered? 
The answer is the following link, which is an archived version of the website as saved on Friday 12 March:

Explanation for readers who do not know how web archiving works: by using an archiving tool such as wayback machine, anyone can save a snapshot of a website "as is" to a different server, in this case belonging to web.archive.org. The browser address bar naturally indicates the url of the snapshot and the wayback machine tool below shows the url of the original site and the date the snapshot was taken.   


And of course, there's the "bad for democracy" social media that his uncle so despises. So here is a screenshot of Bakoyannis's stroll on Saturday 27 February in a totally different area of Athens. The photos were uploaded on Kostas Bakoyannis's Instagram account.