Legal debate in Greece after woman set on fire, dies

September 12, 2022 GMT

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A 55-year-old woman has died in northern Greece after her husband allegedly doused her in gasoline and set her on fire ‒ the latest in a series of killings that have revived a debate on whether stronger legal measures are needed to protect women from violence.

State hospital officials said Monday that the woman, who has not been named, died in intensive care, three days after the attack at her home in the northern city of Komotini. Her 62-year-old husband was already in police custody and charges against him were expected to be changed from attempted murder to murder.

At least 17 murders of women at the hands of husbands or partners were recorded in Greece in 2021. They include the killing of 20-year-old British-Greek student Caroline Crouch last year. Her husband, Greek helicopter pilot Babis Anagnostopoulos, told police she had been killed in a home invasion but was later arrested for murder and jailed for life earlier this year.

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The body of a 42-year-old Romanian woman was discovered buried in cement in southern Greece a year ago. Her partner was later arrested in the Netherlands on an international warrant. He was found hanged in his prison cell weeks later after being extradited to Greece.

The main left-wing opposition party, Syriza, is supporting a legislative amendment that would make femicide a special crime potentially carrying stricter terms of parole, but the government says no changes are needed to the existing legal framework.

“I accept the term femicide because it defines the way in which these crimes are committed,” center-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sunday.

“But I don’t believe it should receive special legal status. We have a particularly strict legal framework for homicide. I cannot accept that femicide is more heinous than the murder of a child or the murder of an elderly person.”

Mitsotakis said he strongly supported providing additional safeguards to protect women from life-threatening domestic violence, including an expanded network of shelters and additional police training.

Recent changes to Greece’s criminal code include a life sentence mandate for murder, legally described as intentional homicide. ___ Gatopoulos reported from Athens, Greece.