6 Men Jailed for Beating American Student to Death in Greece

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Greek police officers in Athens on Thursday escorting three of those charged in the killing of Bakari Henderson, 22, on the island of Zakynthos last year.CreditCreditGiannis Androutsopoulos/Associated Press

By Niki Kitsantonis

ATHENS, Greece — Nine men arrested in the beating death of an American student outside a bar in Greece in 2017 were cleared of murder but convicted of assault charges on Thursday.

A court in Patra, in western Greece, reduced the charges to grievous assault, handing six men sentences ranging from five to 15 years in prison and freeing three others after convicting them of simple assault for the brutal attack on the student, Bakari Henderson, 22, in the summer of 2017 on the holiday island of Zakynthos.

The verdict disappointed the parents of Mr. Henderson, who have said that they were hoping all the men would be sentenced to life in prison. The prosecution attorney, Andreas Patsis, said that the outcome had “shattered” the relatives and that they did not think justice had been done.

The verdict spurred Mr. Henderson’s parents to warn other Americans against allowing their children to visit Greece.

“If someone can be murdered and there is no justice, what makes you think that you can send your child to another country and be safe?” Mr. Henderson’s mother, Jill Henderson, told reporters outside the courtroom after the verdict.

The attack on Mr. Henderson in July 2017 at the resort of Laganas was apparently prompted by an argument over a female bartender. Security footage captured a swarm of men kicking and punching Mr. Henderson, who was chased down the street.

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The verdict disappointed the parents of Mr. Henderson, Jill and Phil Henderson, who have said that they were hoping all the men would be sentenced to life in prison.CreditGiannis Androutsopoulos/Associated Press

He died within 30 seconds, police officials said.

At the time, a female bartender told investigators that when she had posed for a selfie with Mr. Henderson, who was African-American, a man standing nearby commented: “There are a lot of Serbs in the bar. Why are you talking to a black guy?”

She said the man then punched Mr. Henderson, who responded by hitting him over the head with a beer bottle.

The nine men charged with the beating were a British citizen of Serbian origin who worked as a bouncer at the bar where the brawl broke out, a Greek bartender, and seven Serbian men. Their names were not immediately available.

The Briton received the heaviest penalty from the Greek court: 15 years in prison for intentional homicide. Five of the Serbian suspects received terms of five to 10 years for causing grievous bodily harm. The court refused a request by their lawyers for the terms to be suspended.

The Greek bartender and two other men were released after receiving convictions for simple assault.

Mr. Henderson, a college graduate from Austin, Tex., had been traveling in Greece and was working on a photography shoot for the opening of a clothing line when the attack occurred, his family said last year.

“Bakari loved spending time with family and friends, traveling and meeting new people,” according to a family statement released after his death. “Bakari was an inspiration to all he met. He loved life and lived it to the fullest.”

Renowned as a party town, Laganas traditionally attracts young tourists, chiefly Britons, and serves cheap alcohol in bars that tolerate, and often organize, raucous gatherings. Violent fights are not unusual. A British man was stabbed to death in Laganas in 2011.

Over the past few years, the authorities have sought to curb alcohol-fueled offenses while sustaining tourism, a source of revenue on which the island depends.

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