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Minority rights defenders face harassment, defamation and prosecution

(GHM/IFEX) - The following is an abridged 17 August 2008 GHM press release:

Greece: Harassment, defamation and prosecution of minority rights defenders

Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) releases today an extensive report of the most serious acts of harassment, defamation and prosecution of minority rights defenders in Greece.

In Greece, a formally democratic EU country, the existence of a Macedonian minority and of a Turkish minority is denied by all political forces, most media and most supposed civil society organizations. (. . . ) Moreover, Roma are victims of widespread racism and discrimination in all walks of life, while there is an extensively documented generalized denial of justice for them, by both the courts and the independent authorities. (. . . ) Finally, in Greece there is widespread anti-Semitism even among judicial officials and the rare prosecution of neo-Nazis, resulting from GHM-initiated litigation, faces the opposition of all political parties, independent authorities and most media, who also keep silent about, or even outright deny, the existence of anti-Semitism.

Activists advocating, defending and litigating minority rights are today the object of:
- one upcoming trial for defamation and perjury in retaliation for advocacy against racist school segregation of Romani children in a case for which Greece has recently been convicted by the European Court of Human Rights);
- one criminal investigation for alleged secessionist actions (calling for a penalty of life sentence) and a possible second criminal investigation for similar charges;
- multiple abusive and irregular tax audits;
- one criminal investigation for the possible withdrawal of the legal personality of a NGO;
- one criminal investigation for perjury in retaliation for the filing of criminal complaints against neo-Nazis);
- one physical attack in a courtroom followed by the electronic posting of death threats - an incident that authorities have refused to investigate or even report in the trial's transcript; and
- a series of defamatory statements in the media and on the Internet.

In three cases of defamation of activists, prosecutors or judges have referred to trial one government official, the national newspaper with the largest circulation, and a local newspaper. They have also stated that this government official could also stand trial for having provided false information to the UN. Indeed, GHM would like to underline the courage of some prosecutors and judges who, against all odds and ignoring the prevailing anti-minority, anti-Roma and anti-Semitic attitudes, have taken decisions that have vindicated, in a few cases, the work of minority rights activists.

(Excerpts from the report follow:)

( . . .) On 4 December 2007, Mr. Panayote Dimitras - Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) Spokesperson, member of World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) Assembly of Delegates, and convener of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)'s Working Group on Freedom of Association - testified at a trial before a Three-Member Appeals Court of Athens against the extreme-right newspaper Eleftheros Kosmos, which had published articles on 27 October 2006 in conjunction of the anti-Semitic book by Mr. Kostas Plevris, The Jews - The whole truth (May 2006), in which Mr. Plevris glorifies Hitler and calls for the extermination of the Jews.

(. . . ) After he became aware of the complaints against him, filed in October and December 2006, Mr. Plevris launched in January 2007 two lawsuits for defamation against Mr. Dimitras. One of them also targeted Ms. Andrea Gilbert, GHM's specialist on anti-Semitism, and Messrs. Moses Konstantinis, Benjamin Albala, Abraham Reitan and Leon Gavriilidis, four members of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (Kentriko Israilitiko Symvoulio - KIS), who had also testified against him. Although these lawsuits contain racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic statements, the Greek courts have surprisingly registered them and have set trial dates in 2008. Mr. Plevris, probably because of his criminal conviction at first instance and the loss of his application for interim measures . . . , abandoned the lawsuits.

Moreover, Mr. Plevris singled out Ms. Andrea Gilbert, because she is an American Jew who has settled in Greece and also the spokesperson of the gay and lesbian NGO Athens Pride. In August 2007, he filed an application requesting an interim measure to freeze her assets, which was heard on 30 November 2007, by the Single-Member First Instance Court of Athens (Interim Measures). On 16 January 2008 the court rejected the application. In its ruling, the Court concluded that "it is true that the applicant calls into question the Holocaust, the concentration camps, the gas chambers and the ovens, which he considers part of Jewish propaganda [?] the applicant anyhow expressly states that he is an anti-Semite and a Nazi."

At the same time, in January 2007, Mr. Plevris filed a criminal complaint for defamation and perjury against Ms. Andrea Gilbert, and Messrs. Panayote Dimitras, Messrs. Moses Konstantinis, Benjamin Albala, Abraham Reitan and Leon Gavriilidis. More than one-and-a-half years later, the complaint is still in the phase of preliminary investigation, which according to the law should not last more than four months.

(. . . ) Finally, in October 2007, Mr. Plevris filed a complaint report against Mr. Dimitras claiming that, with texts that he wrote on the Macedonian minority in Greece - which include references to ECRI and UN Treaty Bodies concerns and recommendations on the matter - he violated Article 138 paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code which states: "one who attempts by force or by threat of force to detach from the Greek State territory belonging to it or to include territory of the Greek State in another state shall be punished by death" (another article commutes death sentences to life sentences). The Chief Prosecutor of the First Instance Court of Athens decided that the criminal complaint was not completely unfounded, and launched a related proprio motu preliminary criminal investigation against Mr. Dimitras. More than nine months later, the complaint is still in the phase of preliminary investigation, which according to the law should not last more than four months.

(. . .)

To read the full press release, visit:

For further information on the Dimitras case, see:

For further information the investigation of the GHM for denouncing anti-Semitic articles, see:

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