GREECE: Violence erupts at Athens university

Several students were taken to hospital, fortunately with minor injuries, following a weekend of violence by warring factions at the Athens Economic University. The violence occurred for no apparent reason other than settling of accounts and defence of what teaching staff and students called their "client interests".

Student unions at Greek universities are patronised and often dominated by the main political parties which use them as nurseries for the cultivation of potential politicians and, even more important, potential voters.

The annual student elections for representatives in the student union executive occur with party support and finances. The level of conflict is extremely high although the debates hardly ever concern student matters.

A group of some 150 students at the university, supported by right-wing elements from outside and armed with stones, crowbars and knives while wearing hoods and motorcycle helmets, invaded the campus and attacked students who were present.

Sporadic skirmishes took place throughout the weekend between smaller groups but the violence was rekindled last week with renewed ferocity during which another five people were taken to hospital. Police and security forces were unable to intervene because the campus is covered by the Greek constitution that says a campus is an "academic asylum".

In an effort to defuse the situation, avoid further bloodshed and give the combatants time to cool down, the university's Senate ordered the university's closure for 24 hours while the rector called the various factions for consultations and a debate with the participation of the teaching staff.

In a separate and unconnected incident, a bomb was placed at the house of former Education Secretary Marietta Giannakou but the explosion caused only material damage.

The Panhellenic Federation of University Teachers Associations condemned violence from all quarters and called for a demonstration with the participation of ordinary people "for the defence of fundamental social and democratic rights against violence and terror".