* Photos in Greek media show suspects bruised, bleeding
* Police mug shots altered to remove injuries
* Amnesty calls for impartial investigation
(Adds Amnesty International statement)
By Karolina Tagaris
ATHENS, Feb 4 A Greek prosecutor ordered an
investigation on Monday into whether four suspected bank robbers
were beaten in custody, after police published mug shots that
were altered to make their injuries appear less severe.
Rights groups and critics have long accused Greek police of
detaining immigrants and other prisoners in shocking conditions.
Photos published in the Greek media of the men, who were
aged between 20 and 25 and arrested on Friday, showed them
bruised and bleeding while being escorted by police.
But mug shots released by the police over the weekend had
injuries missing. One had been altered to remove a purple bruise
from beneath the suspect's left eye. In another, black bruises
below the suspect's eyes and cheeks appear to have been erased.
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias acknowledged the
photographs had been tampered with, but defended the decision by
saying it was to make the four men recognisable to the public.
"Photoshop was used and I - just like you, just like any
reasonable person - asked why was this done," Dendias said on
Greek television when asked about the press reports.
"Because if they hadn't been Photoshopped, in order to make
them resemble an image that the average person would recognise
them in, then the photos wouldn't have been published in the
He said police believed the injuries occurred when the
suspects resisted arrest rather than when they were in custody.
The leftist Syriza opposition criticised Dendias's comments
and demanded an investigation into allegations by the families
of the men that they had been beaten in police custody.
Amnesty International backed calls for an impartial and
thorough investigation, saying it was concerned by allegations
of torture and ill-treatment by Greek police.
"The Greek authorities cannot just Photoshop their problems
away. This culture of impunity needs to be stopped," said Marek
Marczynski, deputy director of Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia
Greek news websites published a letter by the mother of one
of the suspects accusing the police of mistreating her son
because of his anti-establishment beliefs.
"Police authorities in Greece are following the examples of
torture in Guantanamo prison," the letter said. "My son - and
the others arrested - was not treated like every other law
breaker but with particular hatred because he is an anarchist."
The four men were arrested during an attempted armed robbery
at the branches of Greek lenders ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank
in the northern town of Kozani on Friday.
Two of the detainees appeared in court on Monday in a
separate case, on charges of belonging to Conspiracy of Fire
Cells, an urban guerrilla group which has claimed responsibility
for a spate of bomb attacks since 2009.
Greece has seen a surge in political violence in recent
weeks, including makeshift bomb explosions outside the homes of
journalists and political figures as well as shots fired at an
office used by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
(Editing by Oliver Holmes and Pravin Char)