Witness to murder of LGBTQ+ activist Zak Kostopoulos describes assault as a 'lynching'

With a new trial date expected in the coming months, a witness to the assault of Zak Kostopoulos details the attack for the first time.

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A witness to the murder of Greek LGBTQ+ activist and drag perfromer Zak Kostopoulos has described the horrific attack as “a lynching.”

On September 21 2018, LGBTQ+ activist Kostopoulos died following a brutal assault in Athens. While mainstream Greek media attempted to frame him as a drug addict and thief breaking into a jewelry shop, video footage revealed the drag performer being brutally beaten by two men in the street as onlookers stood by. 

When police arrived, Kostopoulos was forcefully arrested after suffering prolonged attacks. The activist died from his injuries on the way to the hospital. 

As seen in video footage recorded by onlookers, witness Philippos Karagiorgis attempted to stop the attack against Zak Kostopoulos with his arms outstretched. He witnessed the violent assault after his motorbike ran out of fuel and stopped nearby. 

Karagiorgis will testify when the case has been brought to trial after being put on hold in November due to a court citing public health risks. Speaking about the assault for the first time, he stated, “It was a lynching. There’s no other way to describe it. He was… on all fours like a baby, desperately trying to crawl through the shattered glass of the shop’s window. Every time he tried to get up, these two men would kick him in the head, again and again.”

“There was a lot of commotion, a lot of screaming. What I’ll never forget was the apathy of the crowd, people sitting there in the cafes, watching as if it was a movie, when it was the most aggressive, inhuman thing I’ve ever seen. My soul darkened that day,” Karagiorgis further stated.

A new trial date will be expected in the coming months and prosecutors have recently instructed investigators to expand the inquiry into the death. One lawyer said, “That raises the prospect of more people being included in the criminal complaint.”

In 2019, Forensic Architecture analysed all of the video evidence surrounding the killing of Kostopoulos. Their analysis identified various key individuals and the Greece police’s failure in launching a proper investigation. 

Member of leading Athens LGBTQ+ organisation, Annie Papzoglou stated, “It’s the same ideology that killed both of them. Homophobic assaults are still common here. There’s been a huge recruitment of police officers in central Athens and growing incidents of police violence and abuse of power. It’s crucial Zak’s murderers are convicted . . . to show nothing like this will ever be tolerated again.”

Human rights organisation Amnesty released a petition calling for a “prompt, impartial, independent and effective” investigation into the death of Greek activist Zak Kostopoulos. In a statement by the International branch, they outlined their concerns, “So far, two men and four police officers have been charged for his death. While an investigation is ongoing, many are concerned about flaws and delays in the investigation into his death as well as persistent systemic failings in investigations concerning cases of police violence in Greece.”

Amnesty International further state, “Zak’s killing and the initial reporting of the case, filled with stigmatising remarks and reproduction of fake news, revealed the deep prejudice that exists in parts of society. This must not be tolerated.”

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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