Pakistani family to sue Greece over shooting of migrant at border

Muhammad Gulzar was fatally wounded on the Turkish side of the border with Greece

A migrant throws a tear gas canister back during clashes with Greek police, at the Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing with Greece's Kastanies, in Edirne, Turkey, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

The family of a Pakistani migrant plans to sue the Greek government over his fatal shooting at the border with Turkey in March when thousands of people were barred entry to the European Union.

The dead man, identified as Muhammad Gulzar, was one of seven people shot during chaotic scenes after Greek soldiers, backed by the European Union, used tear gas to repel the migrants from a border fence between the two countries.

Athens initially claimed the fatal shooting was “fake news” invented by the Turkish authorities but a collaboration between media and three investigative groups concluded that Greek soldiers probably fired the fatal shot.

Mr Gulzar – who had lived and worked in Greece for some 13 years – was killed while travelling back to the country from Pakistan where he had visited sick relatives, his family said.

Witnesses claimed that he went to the fence to urge soldiers not to fire tear gas at those gathered on the other side.

“I am very angry because my father he has died and I am still crying,” the son of the dead man told Sky News, which reported news of the planned legal action.

Mr Gulzar died close to the border crossing at Kastanies, on the Greek side of the border, which faces the Turkish city of Edirne.

The investigation, based on interviews with witnesses, videos posted on social media, mapping and acoustic analysis, said the only people identified with arms were Greek soldiers.

“We call for a full investigation into this incident by the Greek authorities to establish who was responsible for the killing of Muhammad Gulzar,” said Bellingcat, one of the organisations involved in the investigation.

The Greek government in March “categorically” denied it was responsible. The shooting happened a day after the senior leadership of the European Union travelled to Kastanies to support the hardline approach of Greece’s premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Mr Mitsotakis told reporters that an attempt by “hundreds of thousands” of people to cross the border had been “neutralised” amid criticism by the UN and rights groups over the treatment of migrants that managed to enter Greece.

Thousands of people including many from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Pakistan, rushed to the border after Turkey said it would no longer uphold a 2016 deal with the European Union to keep refugees on its territory in return for billions of euros in aid.

Turkey hosts four million refugees, some 3.6 million of them from Syria. The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan orchestrated the mass movement after opening its borders on February 27 and bussed migrants to areas close to the border.

The Greek government at the weekend denied that it was responsible for the shooting and claimed that there was “no new evidence” that one of its soldiers was responsible.

“As a sovereign state, Greece has the right to protect its borders against any attack and violation,” said government spokesman Stelios Petsas.

“It did so in March 2020, when Greek Police and military forces were charged with using non-lethal means to deter those attempting to enter Greece illegally from doing so.

“Greek forces executed their mission with absolute success and in full accordance with their orders.”