Four police officers will face court on charges of causing fatal bodily harm in the death of Zak Kostopoulos.
Also known as Zackie Oh, the 33-year-old was a beloved drag queen and HIV and LGBTI activist. The Greek activist died from a heart attack caused by injuries he received when fatally beaten.
Two men who thought he was trying to rob their jewellery in Athens, Greece violently assaulted Kostopoulos. But police are also implicated in his killing after video emerged of four officers beating and kicking a bloody, barely conscious Kostopoulos.
Following Kostopoulos’ death, media and police labelled him as a ‘knife-wielding junkie thief’, lying about why he was in the jewellery store and his cause of death.
Police were forced to reopen an investigation into his death after coroner’s report revealed Kostopoulos – also known as Zackie Oh – died from heart attack caused by the injuries he received when assaulted by the two men and police. A toxicology report also revealed Kostopoulos did not have drugs in his system contradicting media and police reports.
Police had originally transferred the four police to another jurisdiction. But they are now charged with causing fatal bodily harm and face court on 12 December.
The police alleged they only tried to detain him in the course of their duties. But video of the incident shows them clearly kicking and beating him.
‘You, together with your cohabiting police officers, at the time of the arrest of the above, have caused him physical injury, which resulted in his death,’ an investigator into the police’s actions found. The investigation lead to the magistrate’s charges on Monday (2 December).
‘In particular, you hit him causing him physical injury which was increased because of the situation he had suffered.
‘As a result of these injuries… caused by the concurrent behavior of both yours and all your co-defendants… led to ischemic-type myocardial lesions which are causally associated with the above injuries and led to his death.’
Family want a murder charge
Kostopoulos parents’ have asked through their lawyer that the police officers’ charges are increased to murder.
‘Four of the nine police officers were indicted for inflicting lethal injuries at Zak Kostopoulos,’ said Anny Paparousou, lawyer for the Kostopoulos in a statement to Gay Star News.
‘Given that they were dealing with a man already injured and in an apparent state of weakness, their violent behavior and blows cannot be justified as a police practice of “legal violence”.
‘It is obvious that at a legal level their actions have to be valued as manslaughter, because under the circumstances they could have predicted the lethal effect of their actions, and yet they proceed with it.’
Police charged the other two men responsible for Kostopoulos’ death and released them without bail. Their charges included inflicting lethal harm resulting in death and with the misdemeanour of causing grievous bodily harm.