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Journalist on trial over article about Greek volunteers' role in Bosnian massacre

(GHM/IFEX) - 11 July 2010 - Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), on this 15th anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica, denounces the decision of a Greek prosecutor to refer to trial journalist Takis Michas, author of the book "Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic's Serbia", for allegedly defaming Stavros Vitalis, the person who claims to have been in charge of the Greek volunteers who fought in the Bosnian-Serb forces responsible for this and several other atrocities during the Bosnian war. One point of the charges is that Michas' reference to the "massacre of Srebrenica" is a falsehood.

A criminal complaint was filed against Michas on 30 July 2009 by Vitalis after the journalist published an article entitled "They saw Mladic and Karadzic at a small church" in the newspaper "Saturday Eleftherotypia".

GHM believes that the charges are unwarranted. Michas is being prosecuted for having reprinted an article from the Bosnian weekly magazine "Global" which mentioned the well-established presence of Greek volunteers in the Bosnian Serb army, considered responsible for the massacre in Srebrenica. The article also noted that Greek authorities never prosecuted those volunteers, and that there was a massacre in Srebrenica. According to the summons, all these affirmations are false.


BACKGROUND:

The relevant excerpt of the indictment summons follows, translated into English by GHM.

9 June 2010
Indictment Summons
The Misdemeanors Prosecutor of Athens
[. . . ]

We hereby summon Panayote Michas of Nikolaos to a trial before the Second Three-Member Misdemeanors Court of Athens on 17 September 2010.

[. . . ] The defendant is hereby charged with committing, on 25 July 2009, in Athens and via the medium of the press, the offence of willfully claiming and disseminating before third parties, falsehoods regarding another person that could harm his honor and reputation, while knowing that these facts were untrue. More particularly, the defendant published in the newspaper "Saturday Eleftherotypia" an article entitled "They saw Mladic and Karadzic at a small church", in which [article] he, inter alia, disseminated facts about the plaintiff, Stavros Vitalis of Georgios, that had been published in the Sarajevo weekly review "Global," namely that ". . . the widely read Bosnian periodical reminds its readers of Greece's stance during the war in former Yugoslavia by publishing a photo of Greek paramilitaries that participated in the Srebrenica massacre, alongside the fact that the Greek authorities have not preferred charges against them".

The defendant then added that, "In any case, it appears that the Greek authorities are deeply concerned over the impact that the story of the presence of Greek paramilitaries could have on Greek-Bosnian relations," even though he knew that all the above constituted falsehoods and could harm the honor and reputation of the plaintiff. Although the latter is not mentioned expressis verbis in the article, he served as a volunteer in the Serbian Army and his service there is known to part of the readership which, on account of the exposure he gained via the Greek mass media that covered his story, deduced that the impugned article referred to him as well. [. . . ]

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