Greece bankers guilty over Athens arson deaths

Flowers left in front of Marfin Bank (6 May 2010) LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images) Three people in their thirties died in the attack

Three bank officials in Greece have been given jail sentences of up to 10 years for failing to protect the lives of staff during a fatal arson attack by anti-austerity protesters in May 2010.

Three Marfin Bank staff members died in the attack on a central Athens branch, including a pregnant woman.

No-one has yet been convicted of causing the fire.

The Marfin branch had refused to allow staff to leave early, unlike other banks in the area.

The arson attack remains one of the most tragic moments of Greece's financial crisis, BBC Athens correspondent Mark Lowen reports.

Youths threw firebombs into the bank during a protest, starting the fatal fire.

The prime minister at the time, George Papandreou said it was a "raw, murderous act" while President Carolos Papoulias declared his country had "reached the edge of the abyss".

Suspended terms

The trial in Athens heard that the defendants had failed to take adequate measures to protect their staff, especially given that the branch had been attacked before. The defendants could have "predicted and prevented the outcome," the court heard.

The managing director of the Cyprus-based bank, Constantinos Vasilakopoulos, and the security head of the Stadiou street branch, Emmanouil Velonakis, were sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter and causing bodily harm through negligence.

But the court ruled that the officials would have their terms suspended pending an appeal.

Branch manager Anna Vakalopoulou was given a five-year term while a fourth defendant, the deputy manager, was acquitted.

The court also asked for the case to be re-examined to see if other senior staff were responsible for ''negligent homicide''.

Arson attacks against public and private institutions in Greece have been frequent since the start of the financial crisis.

But street protests in Athens have calmed somewhat, with violent clashes no longer so common, our correspondent says.

Marfin Bank was later rebranded as Cyprus Popular Bank which nearly collapsed during the island's financial crisis in March.

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