THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Police in northern Greece arrested 11 people Friday after a high school principal was handcuffed by alleged members of a self-styled vigilante group that opposes pandemic restrictions.
The incident occurred near the city of Katerini, 430 kilometers (270 miles) north of Athens. The suspects allegedly grabbed and handcuffed the 61-year-old principal ahead of a daily COVID-19 entry check of students at the school, forced him into a vehicle and drove him to a nearby precinct where they asked police to charge him.
Instead, police promptly detained the suspected vigilantes.
Education Minister Niki Kerameus in a social media post called the attack “inconceivable,” adding: “We will protect our educational community by all means necessary.”
The suspects — nine men and two women — were accused of assault, abduction, using insulting language and disturbing the peace, police said.
“The (suspects), acting together, forcibly immobilized the school principal as he approached the school complex, handcuffed him and forced him to enter a vehicle in order to take him to a police station, on the pretext that he was violating constitutional provisions,” a police statement said.
Greece is battling a spike in infections and a near-record level of deaths as roughly one quarter of the adult population remains unvaccinated. The government has vowed to keep schools and businesses open but has intensified pressure on the unvaccinated and recently announced a vaccination mandate for people aged over 60.
Vigilante groups have recently appeared in the northern city of Thessaloniki and nearby towns, one calling themselves The Custodians and wearing black uniforms, arguing that the restrictions are illegal and should be opposed by those defending the constitution.
One group recently damaged a private Covid-19 test clinic in Thessaloniki, claiming that testing was illegal. Four people were arrested and charged with impersonating authority.
The government renewed a vow Friday to crack down on the groups, along with gangs that sell counterfeit vaccination certificates.
Takis Theodorikakos, a minister for public order, described the school incident as “utterly condemnable.”
“Such behavior is provocative and unacceptable and the police must not allow this to be repeated,” he wrote in a tweet.
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