Greek police arrest 3 foremen over farm shootings

(AP) Greek police arrest 3 foremen over farm shootings
ATHENS, Greece
After a two-day manhunt, Greek authorities on Friday arrested three strawberry farm foremen accused of shooting and injuring 28 Bangladeshi laborers who were protesting long pay arrears.

The attack, which drew strong condemnation from the government, political parties and labor unions, shocked Greece and highlighted the plight of migrant workers in the financially troubled country where racist crime is on the rise.

A police statement said the three Greeks were arrested in the southern town of Amaliada, near the village of Manolada where the shootings took place on Wednesday.

Two of the suspects, aged 39 and 27, were taken into custody at their lawyer's office while the third, aged 21, was stopped during a road check. They face multiple charges of attempted murder. Police have also arrested the farm owner.

The shootings followed an altercation between the foremen and some 200 workers demanding six months' unpaid wages. Police said the foremen left the scene only to return with two shotguns and a handgun, and opened fire.

All of the injured laborers were out of danger Friday.

The incident drew calls on social media for a boycott on strawberries from Manolada. The area, about 260 kilometers (160 miles) southwest of Athens, produces most of the strawberries sold in Greece, in an industry based on cheap labor by immigrant workers who are often housed in primitive conditions on the plantations.

Greece is the main gateway for immigrants from Asia and Africa trying to clandestinely enter the European Union. Most end up stuck there, amid Greece's worst financial crisis in decades, and up to a tenth of the formerly ethnically homogenous country's population is not native-born.

The wave of illegal immigration in recent years, coupled with a spike in violent crime, has fueled anti-migrant sentiment that helped the meteoric rise of Golden Dawn, a party so far to the right that its website brims with Nazi literature and references. The party, which is currently Greece's third most-popular _ polling at about 10 percent _ strenuously denies it is neo-Nazi.

There have been several cases of migrant laborers being abused in Manolada in recent years _ including cases of men being dragged behind cars or motorbikes _ but none as bad as Wednesday's.

Foreign workers are in a particularly parlous position, as many entered Greece in violation of immigration laws and are under constant threat of arrest and deportation if denounced to authorities. Even victims of racist attacks have suffered detention over alleged immigration violations, a practice denounced by international rights groups.

Greece's public order minister, Nikos Dendias, on Friday pledged that the injured Bangladeshis would be spared such treatment.

"None of the victims have been detained, nor will they be deported," he said during a visit to the Manolada area.

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