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Publisher convicted of slandering GHM spokesperson

(GHM/IFEX) - 9 September 2009 - Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) today announces that the Athens First Five-Member Appeals Court (President: Vassileios Kapelouzos - Members: Eleni Metzidaki - Sofia Oikonomou - Ekaterini Nomikou - Ioannis Magginas) has convicted Dimitris Zafeiropoulos, publisher and managing director of the extreme right newspaper "Eleftheros Kosmos" and parliamentary candidate for the extreme-right LAOS party in the Achaia district in the upcoming elections, of slander through the medium of the press of GHM Spokesperson Panayote Dimitras. (Zafeiropoulos has since been removed from the LAOS slate). This now final judgment was also requested by Prosecutor Christos Markogiannakis, who then proposed the minimum provided sentence of thirty days (with suspension), which the court accepted and imposed.

In their first instance conviction on 11 February 2009, the Athens First Three-Member Appeals Court (Misdemeanors) had convicted Zafeiropoulos for slander through the medium of the press and imposed a six-month suspended sentence on him, adopting the proposals of Prosecutor Eleni Sotiropoulou in both decisions (conviction and sentencing).

GHM notes that today's sentencing is more compatible with European Court of Human Rights case-law for cases of slander or defamation.

Zafeiropoulos was convicted for publishing an article on the front page of the 1 July 2007 edition of "Eleftheros Kosmos", titled "Dimitras Vanished! Greek Helsinki Monitor President dared not show up for the Gypsies v. Eleftheros Kosmos trial." The article was accompanied by a photograph of GHM spokesperson Dimitras. A related, more extensive article was published on page 2, under the same title, claiming that Dimitras was litigation-crazy and that he was afraid to appear in court for the 25 June 2007 trial because he did not have the arguments to confront the "Eleftheros Kosmos" executives, who were accused of violating the anti-racism law 927/79 with an anti-Roma article. The article was published despite the fact that at that first instance trial of 25 June 2007 a letter was read to the effect that Dimitras and the GHM legal counsel were attending another trial at the appeals court that same day, and that this case, in the end, was not tried on 25 June 2007 following the defendants' request for postponement.

It should be noted that on 18 September 2008, the First Three-Member Appeals Court (Misdemeanors) of Athens convicted Zafeiropoulos and Theodoros Hatzigogos for violating Law 927/79 by publishing an anti-Semitic article in the 12 March 2006 issue of "Eleftheros Kosmos". The court imposed a five-month suspended sentence on them. The defense attorney for Zafeiropoulos was Kostas Plevris, who was the extreme-right LAOS party parliamentary candidate for the Athens City District in the 2004 elections. This was the first irrevocable conviction in cases involving Law 972/79. In contrast, concerning the present anti-Roma article, Zafeiropoulos and Hatzigogos were convicted at first instance on 4 July 2008 but were acquitted on appeal on 24 March 2009.

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