‘Indian among eight arrested in Athens Olympic protest’

March 25th, 2008 - 9:01 am ICT by admin  

London, March 25 (IANS) An Indian national was among eight pro-Tibet protesters who were arrested Monday at the official Olympics flame-lighting ceremony in Greece, a British newspaper reported. The Daily Telegraph’s correspondents in Athens said the person who was arrested was an Indian tourist who had come to the Greek capital from London.

He was arrested on suspicion of planning a pro-Tibetan incident, the newspaper said, adding that all eight had been charged with attempting to disrupt the ceremony at the Ancient Olympia.

The paper gave the name of only one protester.

It said the first two arrested protestors, believed to be from the French group Reporters Without Borders, managed to breach a cordon of about 1,000 police officers and ran behind the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee chief, Liu Qi, who was reading his speech.

They unfurled a black flag showing the Olympic rings in the form of handcuffs. One of them was later identified as Tengon Dorgee, a member of the Free Tibet Student Movement.

Greek and Chinese television cut away from live coverage of the ceremony when the first protest took place.

Police said a Tibetan couple were then arrested when they lay on the road in front of the second carrier of the flame, a Chinese athlete, outside the stadium. They had painted their bodies in red to denote blood.

Two Tibetans were arrested for unfurling a Tibetan flag and a black banner from a balcony above the route taken by the torch-bearers. One other Tibetan was arrested on suspicion that he was planning to set himself alight. The eighth person was the Indian.

The region’s police chief, Maj. Thanasis Spyropoulos, said that a prosecutor will decide whether the eight will be put on trial on charges of causing public disorder - carrying a maximum six-month prison term - or whether they will be set free without being tried.

However, other reports said three people connected with Reporters Without Borders were arrested and that one of them was Robert Menard, the group’s general secretary.

The Paris-based group said in a statement, “If the Olympic flame is sacred, human rights are even more so. We cannot let the Chinese government seize the Olympic flame, a symbol of peace, without denouncing the dramatic situation of human rights in the country.”

The Olympic torch will travel through 135 cities, travelling a distance of 137,000 km from Athens to Beijing in 130 days. The torch will reach Beijing on March 31 where a welcome ceremony is planned. From April 1, the flame will travel around the world with the first stop at Almaty, Kazakhstan, before returning to China May 4.

The torch relay is being sponsored by three major multinational companies - Coca-Cola, Samsung and Lenovo.

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