Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Trial Begins Over Killling of LGBTQ & HIV Activist Zak Kostopoulos

Image of Zak Kostopoulos

Six men are standing trial, two of them police officers, for the death of 33-year-old Greek American Zacharias Kostopoulos in September 2018 in Athens, Greece.

Kostopoulos, known also by Zak or Zackie Oh, was an LGBTQ and HIV rights activist and drag queen who his family says was a victim of a hate crime.

The trial, which started Wednesday, had been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to Agence France Presse.

The defendants have all been charged with causing “fatal bodily harm,” but Kostopoulos’ family wants the charges upped to homicide.

Kostopoulos’ father testified that his son was killed in a “vengeful” attack due to being different. The activist's brother said that assailants targeted Kostopoulos for his sexual orientation. 

The six men say they are innocent.

In 2018, Kostopoulos was locked in a jewelry store for still unknown reasons. He tried to break out. As Kostopoulos attempted to leave, the owner of the store and his neighbor began beating him.

A video posted to social media showed police officers arriving at the scene. AFP reports that the officers believed Kostopoulos had robbed the store. The video shows the officers beating and handcuffing Kostopoulos as he lay on the pavement outside the store bleeding.

He was carried to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead. The family’s lawyer told AFP Kostopoulos died of heart failure after serious injuries.

The defense has said the police handcuffed Kostopoulos after he threatened a health worker with a shard of glass. "What were we supposed to do? Not handcuff him? Where is the 'intention to kill' when you try to disarm?” one of the officer's attorneys, Evita Varela, said in court.

The trial will resume on November 9.

Supporters of Kostopoulos gathered outside the courthouse.

Amnesty International has called Kostopoulos’s death a “lynching” and an “assassination,” according to the news wire.

In a statement, the group condemned the “stigmatization, the prejudice, and the hateful rhetoric” with which Kostopoulos and his family “have often been confronted, even after Zak's death.”

Tags: Crime, World, HIV, Activism

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