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MHRMI - Press Release

Greece Steps Up Blatant Attacks on Human Rights Activists and Macedonian Minority

October 18, 2008



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Greek Military Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) - Press Release

Toronto, Canada - Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) condemns Greece's brutal tactics in clashes between members of the Macedonian minority and the Greek army near the village of Lofi/Zabrdeny in northern Greece.

On October 13, Greek army tanks and other armoured vehicles tried to conduct heavy artillery gunfire exercises just outside the Macedonian village but the inhabitants of Lofi/Zabrdeny and other surrounding villages blocked the road, demanding that no heavy artillery fire take place. Special police units arrived and according to EFA - Rainbow, used "methods resembling the seven-year Metaxas dictatorship", and attacked the villagers and "broke arms and legs, violently dragged women and children from the street" and arrested eight people, including the President of the local Lofi/Zabrdeny municipal council, Mr. Kole Mitskopoulos, and four journalists from the Republic of Macedonia.

Over the next several hours hundreds more gathered and demanded the immediate release of the arrested and the withdrawal of tanks and special police forces. Later that day the journalists were released and escorted to the border to return to the Republic of Macedonia. Early the next morning the four residents were released without charges and the inhabitants were promised that no heavy artillery practice would be performed.

This incident follows the launching of a judicial investigation on possible treason charges earlier this year against leading Greek human rights activist Panayote Dimitras. Following UN independent minority expert Gay McDougall's visit to northern Greece, Mr. Dimitras, spokesperson for the Greek Helsinki Monitor, gave an interview for BBC Macedonian in which he reiterated his position that Macedonians, and other minorities in Greece, are not recognized and severely persecuted.

According to Mr. Dimitras, "...the Council of Europe and the UN have both recommended Greece change its behavior, but Greece hasnt done a thing. In fact, its worse. We dont change anything because we dont have to fear anything. There are no sanctions against Greece, except for the European Court for Human Rights where we have lost cases, cases that Greece ignores. In this country, if you speak about minorities, you are asking for trouble. This will stay the way it is, until Greece is faced with sanctions."

In April 2008, Greece vetoed the Republic of Macedonia's entry into NATO simply because it opposes Macedonia's constitutional name. Greece initiated the so-called "name dispute" in order to continue its policy of non-recognition and persecution of its large Macedonian minority.

"Greece continues to show complete disregard for international human rights law for the sake of its own nationalistic agenda. The international community must act now before the situation for Macedonians, other minorities in Greece, and minority rights defenders deteriorates even further," said MHRMI president Bill Nicholov.

MHRMI calls for immediate sanctions against Greece until it officially recognizes its Macedonian minority and abides by all European Court of Human Rights judgements against it.

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Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) has been active on human and national rights issues for Macedonians and other oppressed peoples since 1986. For more information, please visit www.mhrmi.org, or contact MHRMI at 416-850-7125, or info@mhrmi.org.

 
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