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Hit By Crisis, Greek Society In Free-fall

"I've been here since 1968. My father, my grandfather ran this business," Korakis said. "We've never seen things so bad."

Tsiknopoulos' patience is running out.

"I'm thinking of shutting down," he said, "I think about it every day. That, and leaving Greece."

JUSTICE

On a recent morning in a crowded civil cases court in the northern city of Thessaloniki, frustration simmered. Plaintiffs, defendants and lawyers all waited for the inevitable â¿¿ yet another postponement, yet another court date.

Greece's sclerotic justice system has been hit by a protracted strike that has left courts only functioning for an hour a day as judges and prosecutors protest salary cuts.

For Giorgos Vacharelis, it means his long quest for justice has grown longer. Vacharelis' younger brother was beaten to death in a fairground in 2003. The attacker was convicted of causing a fatal injury and jailed. The family felt the reasons behind the 24-year-old's death had never been fully explained, and filed a civil suit for damages. Nearly 10 years later, Vacharelis and his parents had hoped the case would finally be over.

But the court date they were given in late September got caught up the strike. Now they have a new date: Feb. 28, 2014.

"This means more costs for them, but above all more psychological damage because each time they go through the murder of their relative again," said Nikos Dialynas, the family's lawyer.

Vacharelis and his family are in despair.

"If a foreigner saw how the justice system works in Greece, he would say we're crazy," said the 35-year-old.

"Each time we come to court we get even more outraged," he said. "We see a theater of the absurd."

VIGILANTES

In September, gangs of men smashed immigrant street vendors' stalls at fairs and farmers' markets. Videos posted on the Internet showed the incident being carried out in the presence of lawmakers from the extreme right Golden Dawn party. Formerly a fringe group, Golden Dawn â¿¿ which denies accusations it has carried out violent attacks against immigrants â¿¿ made major inroads into mainstream politics. It won nearly 7 percent of the vote in June's election and 18 seats in the 300-member parliament. A recent opinion poll showed its support climbing to 12 percent.

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