Riot police fire on Greece protest


Greek riot police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Muslims who pelted them with sticks and stones outside parliament today during protests over what they said was the destruction of a Koran by a Greek policeman.

On Thursday, the Muslim Union of Greece reported that during police checks at a Syrian-owned coffee shop, an officer took a customer's Koran, tore it up, threw it on the floor and stomped on it. Police have launched an internal investigation.

About 1,500 Muslims marched through Athens to protest the incident, chanting "Allah is great" and carrying banners reading "Hands off immigrants".

"They started throwing rocks and sticks at police guarding parliament and the officers responded with tear gas and percussion bombs," a police official said.

It was the second protest since the reported incident after 1,000 immigrants, many from Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, marched to central Omonia Square on Thursday and smashed several shop windows and five cars.

"We want to live here in peace, we don't want trouble but we want the policeman to be punished," said a 30-year-old illegal Egyptian immigrant who identified himself as Said.

Thousands of immigrants, many from Muslim countries, cross into Greece illegally every year seeking a better life in the West. Trapped in legal limbo, most have no jobs, live in squalid conditions and are often arrested for minor crimes.

On May 9th, members of a rightist group attacked immigrants in Athens, sending at least three to hospital. Rights groups accuse predominantly Orthodox Christian Greece of not doing enough to protect immigrants.