Four Athens police officers will be in court next week to answer charges of inflicting “fatal bodily harm” on Greek gay activist Zak Kostopoulos, who died in September after being beaten by a mob.
A magistrate in an Athens court Monday gave the officers until December 12 to come up with their defense, Greek newspaper Katherimini reports. The officers say they did not strike Kostopoulos but were merely attempting to restrain him, as at the time he was mistaken for a robber.
Kostopoulos, a 33-year-old activist for the rights of LGBTQ and HIV-positive people, had broken into a jewelry store in downtown Athens September 21 in what friends say was an attempt to evade a fight that started at a nearby café.
He was trapped in the store for a time, but when he got out, he was attacked by a group of people, including the store’s owner, who said he thought the shop was being robbed. Video footage showed him being beaten and kicked. He died before reaching a hospital; a coroner’s report determined that the cause of death was a heart attack brought on by the beating.
In addition to the police officers, the shop’s owner has been charged with causing fatal bodily harm. Kostopoulos’s family has urged that all the charges be upgraded to murder. His friends and allies have raised the possibility that the assault on him was an antigay hate crime.
Kostopoulos was known for his work with Positive Voice, an association of HIV-positive Greeks. He was also a drag performer under the name Zackie Oh.