A plaque commemorating the tragic deaths of three Marfin Bank employees and an unborn child that were killed in a fire set by rioters on May 5, 2010, was unveiled at the site of their death at noon on Saturday, in the presence of President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and opposition Movement for Change (KINAL) leader Fofi Gennimata. The ceremony began with an address by Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, while remarks were made by the president and prime minister.
“The state’s initiative today to put up a commemorative plaque at the site where, 10 years earlier, three of our fellow human beings – Paraskevi Zoulia, Epaminondas Tsakalis and Angeliki Papathanasopoulou with her unborn baby – died a horrible death so senselessly and unfairly, is not just a symbolic gesture to preserve their memory but a first small step toward their vindication,” the president said, while noting that honouring the memory of people that had fallen victims to hatred and ideological violence “cannot be an arena for political controversy and division but should, instead, find us united.”
“Tragic events such as these are incompatible with our democratic tradition and the society we envision. I hope and pray that we never live through such expressions of extreme polarisation and blind violence in our country again,” Sakellaropoulou added.
In statements after the unveiling of the plaque, during a discussion with the relatives of those that died, President Sakellaropoulou also noted that it was the least homage that was due to them and that it was “important for the country.”
The prime minister noted that the simple ceremony “honoured the memory of three of our fellow citizens, Paraskevi, the pregnant Angeliki and Epaminondas, who were tragically murdered 10 years ago inside this very building.”
“The symbolism of today’s action is absolutely clear and unambiguous. The country must never again become a victim of blind division, hatred, or violence, which can never be excused no matter what its origin.”
“Unfortunately, we did not manage to have all the political leaders here, as I believe all of Greek society would wish. It is a shame. Nonetheless we press forward leaving behind us these times with these memories etched vividly forever in our own, of a time that hurt us all a great deal and even more the families of the victims that are now seeking after a long delay their final vindication,” he said.
In a discussion with the families, he noted that the state had an obligation to honour the memory of the Marfin dead and to do whatever was necessary in order to “finally close this chapter, not end on a semi-colon”.
Gennimata, on her part, noted that the “souls of the victims will always demand justice through the revelation and punishment of the culprits, unity against the polarisation and the division that breeds violence,” and noted that this reflected the position of the democratic wing.
The plaque reads “In this building on 5 May 2010 were murdered Paraskevi Zoulia, the pregnant Angeliki Papathanasopoulou, Epaminondas Tsakalis, victims of the blind hatred born of division. We honour their memory. Never again. May 2020.”
The three bank employees – 32-year-old Angeliki Papathanasopoulou who was then in the fourth month of pregnancy, Epaminondas Tsakalis, aged 36, and Paraskevi Zoulia, 35 – were working in the bank on Stadiou Street with another 25-30 colleagues while a protest against austerity measures was underway. Unidentified rioters, whose identity has yet to be confirmed, threw fire bombs into the bank and started a fire while people were still inside. Most managed to get out and five were rescued by the fire brigade once it was able to get through but the tragic victims of the incident were trapped and died of smoke inhalation.
The placing of a plaque was initiated by the prime minister, while main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas arrived at 9:30 and 10:30, respectively, to lay a wreath at the site.
“Today we honour, as we have done every year for the past 10 years, the memory of our fellow citizens that unjustly lost their lives in the branch of Marfin Bank. And on this occasion, once again, we express our condemnation of violence. We unequivocally condemn violence, especially violence against the most precious of goods, the most precious value that is human life,” main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said on Saturday, laying a wreath at the site where a commemorative plaque has been erected for the victims of the 2010 Marfin Bank arson attack.
“Nevertheless, today I am unfortunately also obliged to unequivocally condemn not just violence but also hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of [Prime Minister Kyriakos] Mitsotakis, who decided to open up the case file, one decade on, for an investigation by the Citizens’ Protection Ministry, by the same people that 10 years ago proved incapable of seeking and finding the culprits or leading them to justice to account [for their actions],” Tsipras added.
The main opposition leader repeated his condemnation of violence “but also the hypocrisy of Mr. Mitsotakis”, noting that just a few months before decided to erect the plaque at this spot, the prime minister had instructed the citizen protection ministry and the labour ministry to appeal against a court ruling that had awarded compensation to the families of the victims for their deaths.
“The struggle for life is indisputably a struggle that is linked with the struggle for justice and truth. We honour our dead and hope that there is never again a similar incident but we also honour the struggle of our people for justice and truth because these are struggles for life, struggles for a better life.”
THE COMMUNIST PARTY
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Saturday laid a wreath at the site where three Marfin Bank employees were killed during a fire set by protestors on May 5, 2010 but highlighted the responsibilities of successive governments in what happened.
“Today, as on every year, we honour the unjustly killed workers of Marfin. We refuse the great hypocrisy of the bourgeois state and its governments,” he said, noting that the New Democracy, PASOK and SYRIZA governments that alternated in power over the last 10 years have grave responsibility for “leaving in the dark the provocateurish and other mechanisms that operated in this crime.” He also noted that the bank itself had not been held accountable for its failure to adopt security measures to protect its employees.