Zak Kostopoulos funeral: Gay activist, killed in mob attack, buried in Greece

Greek gay activist Zak Kostopoulos, who died in the streets of Athens following an apparent mob attack, was buried on Tuesday in the village of Kirra where he grew up.

The funeral was attended by his parents, friends, locals and members of the LGBT+ community who made sure Kostopoulos’ burial celebrated the way he lived and his role in queer advocacy.

It is tradition in Greece to throw handfuls of dirt on the coffin, but mourners threw glitter instead. “In the end the grave wasn’t brown anymore, it was pink and blue and purple, shiny glitter everywhere, tiny gay flags everywhere,” Kostopoulos’ friend and journalist Christina Michalou told PinkNews. “Some drag queens threw their wigs in the grave too.”

Kostopoulos often performed as drag queen Zackie Oh and appeared in a Vice Greece video exhibiting his routine, as well as starring in short film about living as an HIV-positive man and another about LGBT+ life in Athens, titled Faster Than Light, which has yet to be released.

The 33-year-old died on Friday (September 21) in circumstances that are still under investigation. Footage shared on social media and broadcast on local television news appears to show Kostopoulos trapped inside a jewellery store, attempting to break free.

Two men, who have since been arrested, can be seen kicking him as he attempted to exit the shop by crawling through an opening in the shop window, in one instance striking a blow to his head.

Zak Kostopoulos often performed as drag queen Zackie Oh (Aggelos Barai/Facebook)

Police initially described Kostopoulos as entering the store “armed with a knife” with the intent to commit a robbery, but his friends and family disputed that account. His father Efthimios Lekkas noted in an interview with a local publication that his son entered the store in broad daylight without concealing his face—no robber would behave that way.

A friend of Kostopoulos claimed he had entered the store to seek shelter from a brawl that had taken place across the road. It is still not known whether the knife reportedly found in the story had Kostopoulos’ fingerprints or DNA on it.

Lawyer Anna Paparousou, who represents Kostopoulos’ family, told Omnia TV on Monday that while the coroner’s report failed to identify a clear cause of death, it reported brain swelling, the origin of which still needs to be determined. She added that no eyewitnesses have come forward to testify and that the police has failed to record the beating in its report of the incident.

Paparousou credited the existence of the video with bringing the mob attack to light. “If the video did not exist, the case might have been closed. No violence would have been recorded by anyone,” she said.

The actions of the police during the attack against Kostopoulos are also subject to scrutiny, with authorities accused of failing to protect the man from the mob.

The distrust in the police is due to a history of authorities failing to investigate crimes against minority groups, as a 2014 report from Amnesty International highlighted. In one instance, police failed to investigate a 2012 attack against a 26-year-old transgender student at an evening school in which a pupil and his friend poured gasoline on her and attempted to set her on fire just outside the school premises.

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