GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR

(Greek National Committee of the International Helsinki Federation)

& MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP - GREECE

(Greek Affiliate of Minority Rights Group International)

P.O. Box 51393, GR-14510 Kifisia, Greece

Tel. 30-1-620.01.20; Fax: 30-1-807.57.67; E-mail: helsinki@compulink.gr

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PRESS RELEASE

1/10/1997

TOPIC: APPEAL FOR URGENT ACTION ON THE FORTHCOMING OUTRAGEOUS TRIAL OF A MACEDONIAN MINORITY PARTY IN GREECE FOR PUBLIC USE OF THEIR MOTHER TONGUE

The cooperating organizations, Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group - Greece, appeal to the international community, to concerned individuals but especially to governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as to the media to publicly protest against the -outrageous for a democratic country- forthcoming trial of Vasilis Romas, Costas Tasopoulos, Petros Vasiliadis, and Pavlos Voskopoulos, in their capacity as leaders of "Rainbow" -the Macedonian minority party in Greece- for public use of their mother tongue. These protests may take the form of statements and/or letters to the Prime Minister of Greece and/or the Greek Embassies in the various countries. They also appeal to these institutions to send monitors to that trial, to be held on 14/10/1997, in Florina (Northern Greece). The International Helsinki Federation has decided to send a large, multinational monitoring team. Please send copies of such statements or letters to our organizations (see address above).

It is noteworthy that the witnesses of the prosecution include the local leaders of all five main Greek parties at the time (PASOK, ND, Political Spring, KKE, and Coalition); as well as leaders of professional associations (lawyers, merchants, priests, taxi drivers). Most of them, in their pre-trial depositions characterize the defendants as "paid agents of Skopjan propaganda", "anti-Greeks", etc. Follow: a summary of the September 1995 events; complete translations of the indictment and of the allegedly violated artcile of the penal code; and the list of witnesses for the prosecution.

The events of September 1995

Rainbow opened an office on 6/9/1995 in Florina, with a sign mentioning "Rainbow - Florina Committee" in both Greek and Macedonian. On the evening and night of 13 (and early hours of 14)/9/1995, the office was attacked and eventually sacked by a ‘mob’, led by the mayor of Florina. Before the sacking, police acting on the prosecutor’s order removed the sign, while the prosecutor announced the indictment of the Rainbow leaders for having incited discord among citizens through the use of the Macedonian language in their sign. No political party, nor any media condemned the sacking of the party offices. On the contrary it was praised by extreme right nationalistic papers like Stohos and Chrysi Avghi, whose members reportedly took part in the sacking. And the use of the bilingual sign was condemned by all mainstream political parties and other social groups: the local PASOK -socialist governing party- organization even initiated a court procedure, later withdrawn as it appeared that many signatures on it had been put without the knowledge of those concerned.

Indictment for the trial at the Single-Member Misdemeanor Court of Florina on October 14, 1997

"Vasilis Romas, Costas Tasopoulos, Petros Vasiliadis, and Pavlos Voskopoulos are responsible for, having acted jointly and in public, in any way having caused and incited mutual hatred among the citizens, so that common peace was disturbed on September 6, 1995 in Florina. Specifically, in the aforementioned place and time, as legally representing the party with the name "Rainbow" ("Ouranio Toxo"), the four defendants hanged a sign in that party’s office - in N. Hasou and St. Dragoumi streets. Among other words written therein, there were the words "Lerinski Komitet" written in a Slavic linguistic idiom. These words, in combination with the fact that they were written in a foreign language, in the specific Slavic linguistic idiom, provoked and incited discord among the area’s citizens. The latter justifiably, besides other things, identify these words with an old terrorist organization of Slavic-speaking alien nationals which was active in the area and which, with genocide crimes, pillages and depredations against the indigenous Greek population, attempted the annihilation of the Greek element and the annexation of the greater area of the age-long Greek Macedonia to a neighboring country, which at the time was Greece’s enemy."

Witnesses for the prosecution

N. Batsilas, policeman; J. Germanidis, president of the Florina Doctors’ Association, and elected Florina District Councilman for the political party "New Democracy"; N. Fanouriakis, president of the Florina Merchants’ Association; A. Konstantinidis, lawyer; Th. Passalis, priest-canon of the Florina Diocese; A. Germanidis, Secretary of the Florina District Organization of the political party "Coalition"; T. Kokkos, journalist; D. Liatopoulos, merchant; L. Nalpantidis, president of the commune Aghios Achillios, Florina; C. Zaravelis, president of the "Radiotaxi" Association; J. Novas, merchant; G. Moulis, representative of the Florina District Organization of the political party "Communist Party of Greece - KKE"; F. Kolettis, President of the Florina District Organization of the political party "New Democracy"; D. Tserkezos, Secretary General of the "National Organization of Macedonian Fighters of the Florina District"; E. Mavropoulos, representative of the Florina District Organization of the political party "Political Spring"; M. Tsotskos, Secretary of the Florina District Organization of the political party "PASOK". Moreover, the prosecution added in the trial file public statements denouncing the bilingual sign, issued in September 1995 by the Florina Bar Association, and by the General Meeting of the Florina Diocese Priests.

Allegedly violated Article 192 of the penal code

"One who publicly and by any means causes or incites citizens to commit acts of violence upon each other or to disturb the peace through disharmony among them shall be punished by imprisonment for not ore than two years unless a greater punishment is imposed by another provision."