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AMFISSA, Greece (AP) – Two policemen pleaded innocent Friday at their trial for the fatal shooting of a teenager that provoked nationwide riots and a resurgence in far-left and anarchist attacks in Greece.
Epaminondas Korkoneas is the key defendant, charged with murder for the Dec. 6, 2008, shooting that followed an altercation with youths who taunted the officers and threw plastic bottles at their patrol car. The second defendant, Vassilis Saraliotis, pleaded not guilty to the charge of complicity to murder.
The teen’s death – in a part of Athens with cafes frequented by anarchists and students – triggered days of violent rioting that spread to cities and towns throughout Greece. Rioting in Athens again last year, on the anniversary of the shooting, led to more than 130 arrests.
The heavily guarded trial opened Friday in the provincial town of Amfissa after being postponed for two days to let a key defense lawyer attend.
Korkoneas, 39, claims the 15-year-old schoolboy Alexandros Grigoropoulos was killed by a warning shot fired into the air that ricocheted.
“I don’t accept liability for anybody’s death,” he told the Amfissa court. “I would have stepped forward to shield anyone, including these kids.”
Co-defendant Saraliotis, 33, said he also was innocent “and will prove it.”
“I have nothing to do with my colleague’s actions,” he told the court.
The trial is expected to take several weeks, and is being held in Amfissa, some 120 miles (200 kilometers) west of Athens, for security reasons amid fears of more rioting by anarchists.
Minor clashes broke out Wednesday between riot police and protesters who had arrived by bus for the trial’s scheduled opening.
The victim’s family has asked that the trial be moved to Athens so that lawyers and witnesses are not inconvenienced by having to travel to the remote location.
The teenager’s killing has led to a rise in attacks by extreme left-wing and radical anarchist groups, in which one policeman was shot dead and another six were injured last year. The groups also set off bombs outside banks, government offices and the Athens stock exchange.
Late Thursday, a new group calling itself Dec. 6 – the date Grigoropoulos died – claimed responsibility for a bomb attack last week on the press and information ministry in Athens. No one was injured by the blast, which damaged the front of the building.