Monday, November 12, 2012

Greece: Reputation as a Tourist Destination Marred by Police Attack on New Zealander in Crete

According to The Herald on Sunday, New Zealander Joel Stirling, 29, was recently handcuffed, kidnapped, beaten, robbed and had a bag placed over his head by Greek police in Crete, where he was relaxing after a six-month stint as a crew member on a luxury yacht.

It is Stirling's contention that he was set up by a seemingly friendly Greek in a restaurant in the town of Chania. He also contends that after being taken to the police station, he was also relieved of $200 in his wallet.

Greek officials have confirmed that Stirling was taken into custody by police in Crete, but have not provided details as to how or why the New Zealander was beaten up, detained, robbed or arrested.

A statement from Wellington-based Greek Ambassador Dimitrios Anninos does not rebut Stirling's claim of being beaten by police. Anninos was told that police in Crete were called to the restaurant because a tourist under the influence of alcohol was disturbing its customers. 

The Greek police version of the incident is that Greek Port Police took Stirling into custody, but that he refused to present any official documents of identification except for disclosing his New Zealand nationality.

According to Anninos' statement, an unidentified New Zealand in Greece was notified immediately and spoke on the phone with Stirling, who told him that the restaurant manager was not going to press charges, at which point the consul asked that Stirling be released. Stirling then contended that the events did not explain why he was subsequently beaten while in handcuffs with a sack over his head and eventually robbed of $200. 

COMMENT: According to a statement Stirling made to the HERALD, he said he would never set foot in Crete again.

That being said, according to police procedure in most countries, a detainee who refuses to produce identification, such as a passport, is usually treated as potentially hostile. 

Nevertheless, if beaten up, robbed and never formally arrested, it is understandable why the Hellenic Police should have some explaining to do.

As a lesson-learned, it is never prudent to be intoxicated in public in a foreign country. Worse, it is never good for the local police to be called for alleged disorderly conduct, as the result can end up being rather unpleasant.

For sure, police always have the legal authority to ask you to prove your identity, no matter where you are. It is possible that by refusing to identify himself, if that actually occurred, Stirling put into motion events that led to unjustified treatment by Greek police.

As a side note, having worked with the Greek police on numerous occasions, their bedside manner can best described as wanting. Specifically, if detained by them, it is best to be cooperative, as they rarely are "touchy-feely."