Group oc­cu­pies site of planned mosque in Athens

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

A group of around a dozen peo­ple have oc­cu­pied the site in the cen­tral Votanikos dis­trict where the cap­i­tal’s first mosque will be con­structed, and have set up a makeshift cen­ter to house home­less Greek peo­ple, but not for­eign­ers.

The ini­tia­tive has been em­braced by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and other ex­treme-right groups in what ap­pears to be a con­certed ef­fort to block the mosque’s con­struc­tion.

On Sun­day, Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michalo­li­akos ad­dressed the sec­ond of two protest ral­lies near the plot – for­merly a Hel­lenic Navy base – or­ga­nized by the party to de­nounce the idea of a mosque in Votanikos, or any­where else in Greece for that mat­ter.

Tellingly, the group oc­cu­py­ing the plot calls it­self the As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­servist In­fantry­man and has fenced the area off with barbed wire.

Mean­while, con­struc­tion work for the mosque – ap­proved in Par­lia­ment in Au­gust – by a Greek con­sor­tium has yet to be­gin as a string of pre­req­ui­site bu­reau­cratic pro­ce­dures have yet to be com­pleted, Kathimerini un­der­stands. The cost, bud­geted at just un­der 887 mil­lion euros, will be footed by the Greek state.

“The ac­tions of these groups are rem­i­nis­cent of past man­i­fes­ta­tions of hate which pose a threat to law, or­der and se­cu­rity,” said a state­ment is­sued by Kostis Pa­paioan­nou, the gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of Jus­tice, Trans­parency and Hu­man Rights.

Athens Mayor Gior­gos Kami­nis said the mosque’s con­struc­tion is a con­sti­tu­tional and in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tion.

“It’s far bet­ter to have one of­fi­cial place of wor­ship rather than have 200 in­for­mal places around the city,” he said, while SYRIZA said the oc­cu­pa­tion was “mo­ti­vated by “racism.”

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