May 22, 1963

May 22, 1963:The murder of leftwing parliamentarian and peace activist Grigoris Lambrakis, after a political rally in Thessaloniki shocked public opinion in Greece and abroad, triggering a major political crisis in the country's entrenched conservative establishment. Lambrakis was struck on the head with an iron bar by two parastatal thugs, Spyros Gotzamanis and Manolis Emmanuelides. He never recovered from the coma caused by the blow and died in hospital100 hours later on May 27. The political assassination of the popular MP was widely considered as the turning point in a chain of provocations by clandestine military and police networks that Ied to the overthrow of democratic institutions in the country four years later. Events surrounding the

Lambrakis murder were dramatised in Costa Gavras' Oscar-winning 1969 film 'Z'. Lambrakis, 51, a professor of medicine at the University of Athens, had just come into the limelight on April 22, 1963, by going it alone on a 42km Marathon peace march (photo) which the government of the then prime minister (and later president) Constantine Karamanlis had banned. On hearing of the, murder, which practically doomed his premiership, Karamanlis is known to have exclaimed in anger, 'Who the hell rules this country anyway?' The investigating magistrate in charge of the Lambrakis murder probe, Christos Sargetakis (who also became president, 20 years later), did not fail to file charges against high-ranking officers as accomplices in the killing.

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 25 May 2006 )

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