Wednesday, May 11, 2005 Posted : 8:30 AM EDT (1230 GMT)
ATHENS, Greece (Reuters) -- Two top Greek opposition politicians trapped by anarchists in Athens most volatile university walked safely from the campus on Wednesday, police said.
Their departure ended eight hours of tension in central Athens after up to 150 self-styled anarchists attacked the cars of the politicians late Tuesday when they attended a book-launching ceremony inside the Athens Polytechnic campus.
The two politicians, fearful of attack if they had left the building without assurances of safety, remained barricaded inside with other guests throughout the drama.
"The politicians can’t come out and the police can’t come in," a witness at the scene had said in the midst of the near siege-like conditions.
The politicians were former Athens Olympic Games supremo and culture minister Evangelos Venizelos and former transport minister Cristos Verelis. Their socialist party lost power to the governing conservatives 14 months ago.
"The standoff is over and the politicians and other guests have safely left," a police spokesman said.
In fighting that had followed the attack on their cars, a man, believed to be an anarchist, was shot in the leg, police said.
As police reinforcements had rushed to the scene, anarchists, wielding baseball bats, hurling rocks and setting rubbish bins ablaze, had retreated into the university grounds in Athens from which police are banned.
The Polytechnic was the scene of a student uprising in 1973 against Greece’s then ruling junta and is credited with playing a key part in ending military rule the next year.
Troops and tanks sent into the university killed at least 13 students and the Polytechnic has become almost a mythical symbol to Greeks of opposition to oppression of any kind.
Small groups of anarchists, some students at the university, regularly disrupt peaceful protest marches by other groups in a bid to provoke police.
They have also been blamed for small gas canister-type bomb attacks on banks, police stations and embassies.
The anarchists advocate capitalism’s overthrow by force.