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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Were weapons planted on this protester?
By Jon Silverman
Home affairs analyst

An anti-capitalist Briton awaiting trial says Greek police planted Molotov cocktails and other weapons on him. Perhaps uniquely, there is video footage of the arrest which supports his case.

Greek police used tear gas to disperse the protesters
Police outside the Greek summit
The arrest of anti-capitalist demonstrators has become so much a part of the fabric of set piece events like the G8, World Trade Organisation or European Union summits that the media takes them for granted.

But the tactics used by the police on such occasions, often with the support of politicians, deserve regular scrutiny because important civil liberties are at stake. The fact that a Briton and two Spaniards are in jail in Greece, facing sentences of up to 25 years, is a case in point.

Simon Chapman, of Basildon in Essex, was one of many protesters at the most recent EU summit held at Thessaloniki in June. He was with what he calls the "anti-authoritarian/anarchist bloc" when the police decided to make arrests.

They fired CS gas canisters and allegedly used their batons to beat Simon to the ground, where he was also kicked. His head injuries required stitches. At the point of arrest, he was wearing a rucksack, the main purpose of which, he says, was to carry his water bottle. But he was charged with possessing something much more sinister - a cluster of Molotov cocktails, an axe and a hammer. Hence the jail term he faces if convicted.

Caught on camera

Many arrested people have sought to discredit the police by alleging the planting of evidence. It is particularly common in drugs cases.

Greek police will have to deal with claims that the weapons were planted on Simon
Angela Smith, MP for Basildon
But Simon's allegations carry rather more weight because a cameraman from Greek television was recording the sequence of events. The shot of the arrest clearly shows Simon, as he says, with a rucksack coloured blue and purple.

The lens then switches to the other side of the road where a police officer is displaying an open black rucksack containing the Molotov cocktails, and other weapons. Two police officers carry this bag across the road and dump it on the pavement next to Simon. The sequence ends with Simon surrounded by three black rucksacks. Meanwhile, the blue and purple one - his own - has disappeared.

Simon's family is taking legal advice to see whether it is possible to compel the police to identify which officers were involved in the arrest. And they are urging the Greek authorities - through the ambassador in London - to examine the video footage which, they say, shows the evidence being planted. This was made available both to the judge and prosecutor but has not, so far, been admitted as part of the case.

Questions raised

The MP for Basildon, Angela Smith, is pressing both the Foreign Office and the Greek ambassador to ensure that any trial is conducted fairly.

"There are big question marks over this evidence and if the Greek police are going to retain credibility they will have to deal with claims that the weapons were planted on Simon," she says.

A spokesman for the Greek embassy in London says it is inappropriate to comment on the case because the matter is before the courts.

Clash between police and protesters
About 10,000 protesters gathered for the summit
The Chapman case is reinforced by allegations made by two Spaniards that the police in Thessaloniki told them they would plant Molotov cocktails on them.

Thessaloniki was not the first summit at which allegations of planted evidence have been made.

Italian police protecting the G8 leaders at the Genoa summit in 2001 were also accused of underhand tactics. On that occasion, a demonstrator was killed and a carabinieri officer stood trial for murder.

After he was acquitted, he told a TV interviewer: "I've been used to cover-up the responsibility of others." The officer is now in hospital after a bad car crash which his lawyer has described as "suspicious".

It is not just the anti-globalisation movement which smells conspiracies at work.

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