Thug who beat Greek LGBTQ+ activist to death walks free after two months in prison

Zak Kostopoulos in front of a Pride flag

A man convicted convicted of beating Greek LGBTQ+ activist Zak Kostopoulos to death has walked free after two months in prison.

Estate agent Thanassis Hortarias was jailed in May on charges over the death of the 33-year-old HIV-positive LGBTQ+ activist, also know by his drag name Zackie Oh.

He was convicted of “injury resulting in death”, rather than murder, and was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 10 years.

However, he has now been released on parole after his lawyers won a bid to have his sentence suspended.

Kostopoulos was beaten to death in a central Athens jewellery shop on 21 September, 2018.

The case was initially closed after Kostopoulos was painted as a drug addict who was attempting to rob the jewellery shop, but when video footage of the attack was revealed, the truth came to light.

As he desperately tried to escape, attempting to crawl towards the door, Kostopoulos was relentlessly beaten by shop owner Spyros Dimopoulos and Hortarias.

When police arrived on the scene, the brutality continued. Officers violently arrested a severely injured Kostopoulos, and shortly afterwards, the activist was pronounced dead.

Anny Paparousou, a lawyer representing Kostopoulos’ family, previously said of the video footage: “He is clearly only half alive but they cuff him from behind, making any attempt at resuscitation impossible. It’s hard not to conclude that this was a hate crime.”

Dimopoulos, Hortarias, and four police officers were charged in relation to Kostopoulos’ death, but all four officers were later acquitted and walked free.

In May this year, Dimopoulos and Hortarias were convicted and sentenced. It was agreed 77-year-old Dimopoulos would serve his sentence at home because of his age.

Now that Hortarias has walked free, no one responsible for Kostopoulos’ death remains in prison.

His lawyers said he has been released on conditions he will report to a local police station once a month, and will not leave the country.

Zak Kostopoulos takes a selfie.

Gay, HIV-positive activist Zak Kostopoulos. (Zak Kostopoulos/Facebook)

Kostopoulos’s mother has written letters to The Guardian and The Huffington Post, as well as to the  European Parliament, hoping more international attention on her son’s death will secure justice.

Eleni Kostopoulos wrote: “The case went to court more than three years after Zak’s death. The police officers were acquitted – a common practice in Greece since police officers are protected by the justice system and never suffer any consequences.

“The other two accused individuals were sentenced to 10 years in prison. In court they never expressed any regrets for their actions.

“The older of the two, because of a law that exists for people over 75, will serve his sentence at home. The other individual went to prison for two months and now he is free again because he claimed that he has financial and health issues… what kind of justice is this?

“How can it be considered as justice? How can the minister of justice convince me and my family that the right message was sent to the Greek society?

“It pains me to live in a country where corruption has penetrated even the justice system and even though I believe that there are decent and uncorrupted justice workers the bottom line is that after almost five long years no one has really paid for my son’s untimely and cruel death.”

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