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Greek policeman jailed for murdering teenager

AMFISSA, Greece (Reuters) - A Greek policeman was sentenced Monday to life imprisonment for the murder of a teen-ager in Athens that sparked riots across the country in 2008 and protests abroad.

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The court in the central Greek town of Amfissa ruled that officer Epaminondas Korkoneas, 39, intentionally shot dead 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropulos in the Athens district of Exarchia. His partner was convicted of complicity.

Immediately after the shooting, youths stormed through Athens, clashing with police, wrecking cars and setting fire to shops in Greece’s worst riots in decades.

Anger was fed by wider resentment over economic hardships and youth unemployment. The protests quickly spread to other Greek cities and unrest went on for weeks, helping topple the conservative government about a year later.

The chair of the court read out the verdict, pronouncing Korkoneas guilty of manslaughter with malice and of violating the law on weapons use by policemen. His partner was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“This is a historic decision that justifies the fight of Alexandros’ family for the truth,” said Zoe Constantopoulou, a lawyer for the teenager’s family. “His memory is still alive.”

The courtroom in Amfissa, where the trial was moved for security reasons despite protests from the victim’s parents, was packed.

Over the course of the trial the court heard testimony that the policeman had a verbal altercation with a group of youths, fired his weapon and killed the boy.

“This eight-month trial suffered from substantial procedural shortcomings,” said Korkoneas’ lawyer, Alexis Kougias. He said he would appeal, adding that the court had failed to hear the testimony of a witness and of some experts.

In Greece, life sentences are often eventually reduced to about 25 years.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; editing by Ingrid Melander and Andrew Roche