Greek government considering punishing demonstrators who wear masks

Greek government considering punishing demonstrators who wear masks Athens  - The Greek government is considering punishing demonstrators who wear hoods or masks as part of its effort to battle the ongoing wave of violence that has plagued the country since the police shooting of a teenager in December, officials said Tuesday.

"The Greek citizen does not hide and is not afraid of showing his face, especially when he is protesting," said Justice Minister Nikos Dendias.

He said the use of hoods or masks during demonstrations to hide identities would be perceived as incriminatory instances and punishable by law.

Dendias said the new measure was among many the government was looking at enforcing to protect the public following major riots in December and a spate of attacks by far-left militant groups.

The government has promised to reorganize parts of its police force by creating a rapid-response unit for central Athens and has asked the assistance of Scotland Yard.

Counter-terrorism experts from Britain, who helped Greek authorities break up the terrorist organization November 17 in 2003, reportedly arrived in Athens late Monday to advise their Greek colleagues on how to tackle an emerging terrorism threat.

Reports said British experts would provide advice on restructuring Greece's counter-terrorism unit and to recommend tactics for curbing violence.

Greece has been plagued by daily bombings and arson attacks on banks and multinational businesses since the shooting of the teenager in December which sparked the worst riots the country has seen in decades.

Experts fear that the militant group Revolutionary Struggle and the newly-emerged Sect of Revolutionaries have recruited new members since those riots and have acquired large quantities of arms and explosives.

On Friday, around 40 masked rioters ran through central Athens with axes and iron rods, destroying shop windows of more than 50 businesses and damaging dozens of cars.

The violence has embarrassed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' government, which has been criticized for its inability to protect the welfare of citizens. (dpa)

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