Ex-police officer seeks to be Greece's first Black lawmaker
STORY: “I might be the first coloured, Black member of parliament, (but) I wouldn't put so much weight on the colour, it is a light issue, it is more important to me that I am a Greek citizen by choice."
Spiros Richard Hagabimana could become Greece’s first Black lawmaker.
It's a remarkable journey for the former police officer,
who just eight years ago was jailed in his native Burundi for refusing to open fire on anti-government protesters as a high-ranking officer of the National Police.
In the outskirts of Athens, Hagabimana is campaigning to voters with the hopes of being elected for the conservative New Democracy party.
If elected, it would also be a historic win in a country where migrants rarely hold official posts.
Just less than a decade ago, the extreme-right Golden Dawn party was the third-most popular political force on a fiercely anti-immigrant agenda.
“I have faced racism, and there are racists, but the good thing is that they are not the ones who represent the Greeks. I have an opinion about racism, that racism is not fought only with words or only with voices, racism is fought with everyday actions."
Hagabimana first arrived in Greece in 1991 on a scholarship to study at the Naval Academy.
When he graduated, Burundi was roiled by a military coup and he was forced to seek asylum in Greece.
In 2005, the year he received Greek citizenship, Burundi's civil war ended
and Hagabimana decided to return to help peacekeeping efforts with the United Nations.
A decade later, the country was gripped by protests opposing a third presidential term.
Hagabimana, then a National Police officer, refused orders to suppress demonstrators.
For that, he said he was jailed and beaten.
He returned to Athens in 2016, with the help of Greek authorities.
"I have been involved in public affairs since I was a child, but I never thought that at some point I would find myself in Greece in 2023 claiming a seat in the parliament. It is a great honour for me to be given this opportunity but it is also a great responsibility.”