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Watch: Family of HIV Activist Say His Killing was a 'Hate Crime' as Trial Begins

Thursday October 21, 2021

Zacharias Kostopoulos
Zacharias Kostopoulos  (Source:Facebook)

Greek-American HIV activist Zacharias Kostopoulos died after being beaten in Athens in 2018. Now, as six defendants — two of them police officers — go on trial for causing "fatal bodily harm," the victim's family insist his killing was a "hate crime," and that the defendants should be facing homicide charges, RTL Today reported.

"Kostopoulos, who went by his artistic name 'Zak/Zackie Oh,' was an HIV-positive drag queen and advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community and HIV-positive people when he died in a rundown part of the Greek capital at the age of 33," RLT Today recalled.

The article said that as the trial got underway, Kostopoulos' brother, Nikos Kostopoulos, took to the stand to tell the court that the beating his brother suffered was a "hate crime."

Efthymios Kostopoulos, the victim's father, also testified, telling the court that the beating that killed his son was "vengeful" and motivated by animus. The victim "was reportedly known in the area at the time as a gay activist," the article said.

"For reasons that remain unclear, Kostopoulos found himself locked inside a jewellery store on the day of his death," the article detailed. "As he tried to break out, he was beaten by two men — the owner of the store and a neighbor — according to a video posted on social media at the time."

Responding police officers also thought that Kostopoulos had been trying to rob the story, the account said, and they "also beat and handcuffed him as he lay bleeding on the pavement, the video showed.

"He was pronounced dead a few hours later at the hospital," the account added.

Euronews reported that the "brutal broad-daylight beating" and Kostopoulos' death had become "a rallying point for anti-homophobia campaigners."

Speaking to the press, Kostopoulos' grandmother said, "Everyone must get what they deserve.... The video is there; the whole world has seen it."

According to the defense, the violence against Kostopoulos was justified. The defense contended that Kostopoulos had snatched up a piece of broken glass and threatened a first responder who had been treating him for a head wound.

"What were we supposed to do? Not handcuff him?" an attorney for the two police officers asked, adding that the officers had been attempting to "disarm" Kostopoulos.

The case has stirred controversy, the article noted, reporting that "Amnesty International has called Kostopoulos' death an 'assassination' and pointed to homophobic bias in early Greek media reports about the case."

"Homophobic attacks are not uncommon in Greece, where the powerful Greek Orthodox Church officially disapproves of homosexual relations and the civil union of same-sex couples was only approved by parliament in 2015," the RTL story went on to say.

To watch the Euronews clip, follow this link.