Claims of rising racism in Greece as young Egyptian tortured by employer
As he arrived on his bike for a 3am clock-in at the family-owned bakery on the Greek island of Salamina, Walid Taleb had no reason to think his 10-hour shift that morning would be different from any other.
But Saturday, November 3rd, was to prove different – the 29-year-old Egyptian migrant disappeared into a maelstrom of beating at the hands of his employer, his son and two accomplices, who chained him up and tortured him for 18 hours in a stable.
That ordeal was followed by indifference by medics, who said he didn’t require hospitalisation after he was found beaten black and blue on a village street, and by police, who detained him in a cell for four nights after the attack.
On that Saturday morning, Walid’s trouble started two hours before the end of his shift, when baker Yiorgos Sgourdos’s son, a 19-year-old just back from his compulsory military service, told the Egyptian to clear off and never come back.
Taken aback at his rash dismissal, Walid felt there was little he could do as an immigrant with no papers. But he did ask for the two months’ unpaid wages he was owed.
Hearing that, the baker’s son twice punched Walid in the face. With that, the father appeared on the scene with another man, and they joined in the beating.
They searched him, and in a pocket found a large sum, about €12,000, a discovery that fuelled, they would later tell an examining magistrate, their suspicion that he was stealing from the premises. It’s a charge that his friends strenuously deny, pointing out that, unable to open bank accounts, they entrusted their hard-earned savings to the care of Walid, whom his compatriots saw as safe and trustworthy.
Walid’s three tormenters then placed a ring and chain around his neck, bundled him into a car and drove a short distance to a stable, next to the baker’s home.
That’s when the horror started for Walid, who says the baker and his gang seemed to be in for the long haul: police later found water, food, alcohol and cigarettes in the outhouse. In the ordeal that followed, he was beaten in shifts and told he would be killed.
“ ‘You will die here and here you will be buried.’ The son told me that his father had a gun and that he would kill me,” Walid told this newspaper, adding that he was certain he would never leave the stable alive.
But when the baker and the others left the stable to open the bakery on Sunday morning, Walid managed to use a rock to smash the ring binding him to the ground. Stumbling outside, his face bruised, and unable to talk, he wandered for a couple of hours around the village before collapsing in front of a petrol station, when shocked passersby called the police.
Taken to hospital by ambulance, Walid’s second ordeal then started. When doctors said there was no need to keep him in, the police took him into custody, detaining him for three nights in a cell with criminal suspects on Salamina and a night in the Athens “aliens’ bureau”, where preparations were made to deport him to Egypt.