A 23-year-old foreign national initially arrested a year-and-half ago on an attempted sexual assault charge, held on pre-trial remand and ultimately released with restrictions is allegedly behind a half dozen recent attacks on women in central Athens.
According to Greek police on Tuesday afternoon, the suspect confessed to attacking six women, including a 13-year-old teen, with most of the attacks taking place in the central Athens district of Exarchia.
A prosecutor has filed a bevy of felony charges against the man, identified as a Syrian national, with his appearance before an investigating magistrate scheduled for this week. He remained jailed on Tuesday.
The case has generated widespread media coverage in the country, not only because at least three of the attempted sexual assaults were partially captured by video cameras, but because of law enforcement’s failure to record his disappearance and issue an arrest warrant.
The incident also rekindled debate over what’s perceived as an overly lenient criminal justice code in the country, as well as the notoriously slow pace in which the “wheels of justice” churn in Greece.
According to reports by several media outlets, the 23-year-old was first arrested in August 2022 in the Athens coastal district of Alimos for attempted rape.
Following a year of incarceration in a northern Greece lockup his trial was postponed. The suspect was then released in July 2023 on the condition that he reside at a migrant/refugee shelter in Malakasa, due north of Athens. He was also ordered to appear at a local police precinct three times a month.
Nevertheless, he failed to report to the shelter or ever show up at the assigned police precinct. However, authorities never sought his whereabouts or issued an arrest warrant.
The man resurfaced on Greek law enforcement’s “radar” on Nov. 17, when he was arrested for breaking glass storefronts and vandalizing vehicles in central Athens. He was released a day later, as no outstanding warrant corresponded to his name, photo or fingerprints.
One attempted sexual assault attributed to the same suspect occurred two days earlier, on Nov. 15.
Other media reports claim the man has lived in Greece after first illegally entering the country by disembarking from Turkey for the eastern Aegean Island of Lesvos.
Authorities are also investigating if he’s ever filed a request for asylum or any type of petition for international protection.
The initial fallout from the case has resulted in the demotion of the police commander of the Oropos precinct, where the suspect was obliged to appear on a monthly basis.