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Convictions upheld for killers of Greek-American activist Zak Kostopoulos

Convictions upheld for killers of Greek activist Zak Kostopoulos
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Despite the convictions of two men, four police officers seen beating Kostopoulos in the 2018 murder were previously acquited.

An appeals court in Athens on Wednesday confirmed the convictions of a real estate agent and an elderly jewelry shop owner in the horrific beating death of LGBTQ+ activist and drag queen Zak Kostopoulos that took place on September 21, 2018.

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Real estate agent Thanassis Hortarias, 63, and jewelry shop owner Spyros Dimopoulos, 81, were sentenced to 10 years in jail following their convictions in 2022 on lesser charges of “injury resulting in death” rather than murder, Greek news agency AMNA reported. That court rejected claims of mitigating circumstances in its judgment.

An Athens appeals court on Wednesday confirmed the convictions but agreed with the defense and considered mitigating circumstances in their ruling. Hortarias received a sentence of five years in prison while Dimopoulous received a sentence of six years but to be served under house arrest due to his age and health concerns.

RELATED: Greek LGBTQ+ activist killed in violent mob attack captured on video

The judges considered the lack of previous criminal record and what they cited as the inappropriate behavior of Kostopoulos in their decision. Still, the sentences handed down were the maximum allowable under the law considering the mitigating circumstances.

The courtroom erupted with shouts of “murderers!” when the sentences were handed down, according to local Greek news outlet Ekathimerinin. Kostopoulos’s mother was also in the courtroom for the reading of the verdict.

“They are guilty, my Zacharias,” his mother tearfully repeated quietly.

Kostopoulos, who was living with HIV, was brutally beaten to death by Hortarias and Dimopoulos after the 33-year-old activist and drag performer rushed into the jewelry shop while fleeing from unknown attackers.

“LGBTQI activist Gregoris Vallianatos posted on Facebook that the victim was actually looking for shelter in the store, as he had been sitting at a nearby cafe when a brawl erupted,” Neos Kosmos reported.

The accused all claimed they believed Kostopoulos was attempting to rob the store and had assaulted them first. However, multiple video cameras captured the horrific assault and disproved these claims.

Disturbing videos showed the first beating by Hortarias and Dimopoulos, and a later assault by the arresting police officers who can be seen kicking Kostopoulos in the head multiple times as he lay on the ground.

RELATED: Athens police charged in murder of Zak Kostopoulos

Police initially blamed Kostopoulos, saying he attempted to rob the store while under the influence of drugs. It was later found there were no drugs in his system at the time of the assault and videos disproved the robbery claims.

The case moved forward only after Kostolopoulos's family hired a private group to conduct its own investigation. Forensic Architecture quickly discovered police had made little effort to investigate the case, the group reports. Authorities did not secure the crime scene or videos that captured the incident and did not interview important witnesses.

The case was reopened and charges were brought after the family and Forensic Architecture submitted their report to prosecutors.

RELATED: Trial begins in murder of Greek activist Zak Kostopoulos

Hortarias and Dimopoulos were originally convicted in May 2018.

“Their behavior and action contain elements of a punitive disposition," the prosecution noted at their sentencing, according to Keep Talking Greece. “Zacharias Kostopoulos never attacked the defendants since he was trapped and they were safe. It turned out that they attacked him. It follows from their way of acting and their behavior that no mitigating factor should be recognized.”

In 2022, however, a court in Athens granted parole to Hortarias, 60, as he appealed his conviction. The court cited the failing health of Hortarias’s wife and two relatives for whom he is responsible in its decision.

The four police officers seen captured on video beating Kostopoulos were previously found not guilty.

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