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New acts of harassment against Greek Helsinki Monitor and activists who filed criminal actions against neo-Nazis

January 21, 2008

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Macedonian DisputeThe Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about new acts of harassment against the GHM and activists who filed criminal actions against Greece’s neo-Nazis.

According to the information received, on December 4, 2007, Mr. Panayote Dimitras, GHM Spokesperson and a member of OMCT Assembly of Delegates, testified at a trial against the extreme-right newspaper Eleftheros Kosmos, which had published articles on October 27, 2006 in conjunction of the anti-Semitic book by Mr. Kostas Plevris, The Jews - The whole truth (May 2006).

During Mr. Dimitras’ testimony, Mr. Plevris and his lawyer verbally attacked the witness. As soon as the testimony was finished, Mr. Dimitras was further attacked by Mr. Theodoros Varikos, a journalist at the State television channel NET, who insulted him and tried to strike him with his hand. Surprisingly, the presiding judge did not order the arrest of the assailant for disruption of court proceedings, merely suggesting to Mr. Dimitras to go to the police station and file a complaint for defamation. However, he was discouraged to do so by a police officer, who told him that if he did so, he would be arrested along with Mr. Varikos, as the latter would file a counter-complaint.

In addition, in the evening of December 4, 2007, a video was uploaded on the Internet by a member of the extreme rightwing party LAOS, showing the attack against Mr. Dimitras with the title “dramatic closure of the trial today”. Below the video, insults and death threats were posted (“no need to insult him; Mr. Dimitras needs something else, something that will rid us from his presence once and for all”), as well as anti-Semitic messages.

On December 13, 2007, Second Three-Member Appeals Court of Athens convicted Mr. Plevris to a suspended prison sentence of 14 months for “incitation to racial violence and hatred and for racial insults”. The other three defendants - the publisher, editor, and journalist of Eleftheros Kosmo - were acquitted of the same charges. Mr. Plevris appealed and the resulting trial is expected to be held in 2008.

Right after this verdict, more threatening messages against Mr. Dimitras were posted on the Internet forum of the LAOS youth organisation NEOS saying, among others: “Dimitras and Marie-Antoinette have the same unavoidable end” ; “I agree. All traitors in the end get what they deserve”.

Furthermore, since the end of the trial, Mr. Plevris has launched a series of legal actions for defamation against Mr. Dimitras, as well as against 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 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.

Besides, Mr. Plevris has also filed a complaint against GHM and NGOs in general claiming they are redundant, illegal and implying they are foreign agents. His complaints include again racist and defamatory comments. Nevertheless, the Chief Prosecutor of the First Instance Court of Athens and in one case the Chief Prosecutor of the Appeals Misdemeanors Court of Athens have decided that these criminal complaints were not completely unfounded, and launched preliminary criminal investigations.

Finally, Mr. Plevris collected all these legal documents and published them in a second book entitled The Struggle for Truth, which is again anti-Semitic and racist, but also defamatory for the GHM and KIS activists and Eleftherotypia journalists. In addition, as the legal documents are published in full, the addresses of those he sued are also printed.

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about these attacks, threats and judicial prosecution against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, Ms. Andrea Gilbert and Messrs. Moses Konstantinis, Benjamin Albala, Abraham Reitan and Leon Gavriilidis, which merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities, in particular their activities against discrimination and anti-Semitism in Greece.

The Observatory also recalls that according to Article 12.2 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

Background information:

From the time the defendants were first summoned to testify in the preliminary investigation, in December 2006, up to and after the trial, they engaged in a series of insulting, defamatory, threatening and often racist statements -in extreme right newspapers, but also in at least one television channel, Extra 3- against GHM activists Panayote Dimitras and Andrea Gilbert and the four KIS Board Members.

At the preliminary examination, Ms. Andrea Gilbert and the KIS leadership filed complaints with constitution of civil claimant status. The Anti-Nazi Initiative (Antinazistiki Protovoulia) also filed an analytical memorandum in the form of a supplementary complaint report. All these parties were summoned as prosecution witnesses in the trial[2]. In the two sets of hearings, the court expelled the Jewish civil claimants (of GHM and KIS), considering that individual Jews cannot claim direct victim status as a result of anti-Semitism speech.

Actions required:

Please write to the Greek authorities, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Panayote Dimitras, Ms. Andrea Gilbert and Messrs. Moses Konstantinis, Benjamin Albala, Abraham Reitan and Leon Gavriilidis;
ii. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned threats against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;
iii. Put an end to all acts harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, Ms. Andrea Gilbert and Messrs. Moses Konstantinis, Benjamin Albala, Abraham Reitan and Leon Gavriilidis and all human rights defenders in Greece;
iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as above-mentioned Article 12.2;
v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Greece.

Addresses:

• Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, Prime Minister,
Prime Minister’s Office at the Hellenic
Parliament, Greek Parliament Blgd, Constitution Square, Athens, Greece. Fax: +30 210 3238129,
Email: mail@primeminister.gr

• Ms. Dora Bakoyannis, Foreign Minister,
Athens, Greece, Fax: + 30 210 36 81 433, Email:
gpap@mfa.gr

• Mr. Sotiris Hatzigakis, Minister of
Justice, Athens, Greece, Fax +30 2107489231

• Mr. Giorgos Kaminis, Ombudsman for Human Rights, Fax 30 2107289643

• H.E. Franciscos Verros, Ambassador,
Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue du Leman 4, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland, Email:
mission.greece@ties.itu.int,
Fax: +41 22 732.21.50

• Diplomatic Mission of Greece to the
European Union, 25 rue Montoyer, 1000 Brussels, Belgium,
Fax: + 32 2 512 79 12 / + 32 2 551 56 51.

Please also write to the embassies of Greece in your respective country.

***

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

 
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