Altered mug shots spur probe into Greek police beatings

Mon Feb 4, 2013 2:37pm EST
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By Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - A Greek prosecutor ordered an investigation on Monday into whether four suspected bank robbers were beaten in custody, after police published mug shots that were altered to make their injuries appear less severe.

Rights groups and critics have long accused Greek police of detaining immigrants and other prisoners in shocking conditions.

Photos published in the Greek media of the men, who were aged between 20 and 25 and arrested on Friday, showed them bruised and bleeding while being escorted by police.

But mug shots released by the police over the weekend had injuries missing. One had been altered to remove a purple bruise from beneath the suspect's left eye. In another, black bruises below the suspect's eyes and cheeks appear to have been erased.

Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias acknowledged the photographs had been tampered with, but defended the decision by saying it was to make the four men recognizable to the public.

"Photoshop was used and I - just like you, just like any reasonable person - asked why was this done," Dendias said on Greek television when asked about the press reports.

"Because if they hadn't been Photoshopped, in order to make them resemble an image that the average person would recognize them in, then the photos wouldn't have been published in the first place."

He said police believed the injuries occurred when the suspects resisted arrest rather than when they were in custody.   Continued...

A policeman escorts suspected bank robber Nikolaos Romanos at prosecutor's office in Kozani town in northern Greece February 3, 2013. REUTERS/Eurokinissi