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Assassination in Athens

Did a left-wing group kill an investigative journalist?

Greek protests in front of parliament
The assassination of a Greek journalist has added to the country's instability while facing an economic crisis. Here protesters gesture in front of the Greek parliament in Athens June 29, 2010. (John Kolesidis/Reuters)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Fears are growing that Greece is on a path of destabilization after an investigative journalist was gunned down Monday in the latest of a series of high profile terror strikes.

The assassination was preceded by a botched assassination attempt on Greece’s Minister for the Protection of the Citizen in June and twin bomb attacks in May against a high-security prison and inside Thessaloniki’s main judicial complex.

“If the hit was a professional attempt to silence a journalist, it is far more political because it accomplishes the aim of spreading terror within a fragile society,” said Filios Stangos, a foreign correspondent and former employee of Greek state television.

Sokratis Giolias, 37, was gunned down on his doorstep by three unknown men wearing a kind of uniform, according to the testimonies of neighbors and his pregnant wife.

Murdered Greek journalist Sokratis Giolias.
Assassinated Greek journalist Socratis Giolias

It was dawn when they rang his bell, summoning him to his death using his parked car as a pretext, then emptying 13 bullets into his body. They escaped in a stolen car whose charred shell the police later discovered as the neighborhood resonated to the deafening siren of a burglary alarm activated by Giolias’ wife before going into shock.

The killing took place against a backdrop of deep economic malaise for Greece and an urban guerrilla campaign by unknown far-left wing groups that target banks and other symbols of capitalism with primitive explosive devices.

An International Monetary Fund-mandated austerity program intends to drive down Greece’s 330 billion Euro debt but critics fear that, as with Argentina, side effects will include heightened social tensions and occasional violence. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe forecasts Greek unemployment will rise to 14.3 percent next year.

“Greek police must conduct a thorough probe into our colleague’s murder and we urge them to consider his journalism as a possible motive,” said Nina Ognianova, coordinator for Europe and Central Asia for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Giolias’ assassination is perhaps unprecedented in Greece, where there is a tradition of targeting publishers, said Brady Kiesling, a former U.S. diplomat and expert on Greece’s burgeoning terror movement.

“I can’t think of any journalists killed in Greece since (the 1948 murder of American CBS correspondent George) Polk ,” Kiesling said. “There was former journalist Pavlos Bakogiannis in 1989 and the publisher of the daily Vradyni Tzortsis Athanasiadis, which was never solved.”