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: office@greekhelsinki.gr web site: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/

PRESS RELEASE

23/1/1998
 

TOPIC: ABOLITION OF ARTICLE 19 IS A POSITIVE STEP.
A MULTITUDE OF INADMISSIBLE TRIALS FOLLOW.
 

The cooperating organizations Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights
Group - Greece believe that today’s announcement of the abolition of
Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code is a positive step. The Article
had been used to strip thousands of minority Greek citizens (considered as
‘of non-Greek ethnic origin’ -allogenous- in that racist provision that was
being implemented through 1997) of their citizenship. Naturally, it would
have been preferable that the abolition be retroactive or at least include
the stateless of Thrace who have been deprived of their citizenship though
they had not settled abroad, as was required by the provision, but lived in
Greece. WE call upon the state to promptly grant these people their
citizenship back and lift all administrative measures preventing former
Greek citizens who lost their citizenship and live abroad to enter Greece.

Today’s development -like last year’s signatures of the Council of Europe’s
Conventions on Minorities and Citizenship as well as the ratification, one
year ago, of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights- is symptomatic
of an effort to -very belatedly of course- modernize the human rights
situation in Greece. We call on the government to swiftly sign the
remaining pending international documents -like the UN’s on the reduction
of statelessness and the Council of Europe’s on minority or regional
languages. Likewise to ratify the documents signed but not yet ratified.

The priority though concerns the area of justice, so that the outrageous
trials that expose Greece internationally stop, as they create the
impression that there exists a totalitarian and obscurantist mentality.
This as people are persecuted for expressing or disseminating opinions
which must be respected in a democracy regardless of whether they are or
are not accurate or acceptable by the large majority of the population. We
mention here the most characteristic forthcoming trials -which remain
almost unknown to the public as a result of the near complete silence of
the Greek media on them.

1. On 19/21998, Eva Androutsopoulos goes on trial in Komotini for the
violation of article 4 of the (Metaxas regime’s) Obligatory Law 1363/1938.
She is charged for, when teaching German language in a private tutorial
school (‘frontistirio’) "in the month of May 1995 and on a date that was
not ascertained she proselytized by abusing of the inexperience of others
(…) attempting in an indirect way, that is by making frequent references
during class time to Buddhism and to religious beliefs of the Orient, to
introduce pupils to the religious conscience of believers in different
dogmas (‘heterodox’), aiming at changing the content of their religious
conscience. The prosecution was triggered by a report to the public
prosecutor by the Bishop of Komotini who also given related testimony. Let
it be noted that the defendant is not even a Buddhist. This is the first
trial on proselytism in Greece after the country’s conviction by the
European Court of Human Rights on the Kokkinakis affair in 1993, and while
a new conviction of Greece is expected for an older conviction of Greek
Protestants on proselytism.
2. On 19/3/1998, Traianos Pasois goes on trial in Florina for
"disseminating false information" (article 191 of the Penal Code).
According to the indictment, in 1996, this Rainbow minority party leader,
while entering Greece, carried calendars which, according to the charges,
"were praising directly controversial and treacherous actions and
decisions" implying the KKE’s stand on the Macedonian question in the
inter-war period, while they also included toponyms in Macedonian. The
prosecution’s witnesses include the Bishop of Florina.
3. On 24/3/1998, the European Court of Human Rights will hear the case of
the refusal by the courts of the registration of the Shelter for Macedonian
Culture. A unanimous decision of the European Commission recommends the
conviction of Greece for the violation of article 11 of the European Human
Rights Convention on the freedom of association. The arguments of the Greek
Foreign Ministry in this case  are also reminiscent of the same
aforementioned obscurantist mentality. Many other cases related to
religious freedom and concerning Greece are pending before that court
following Greece’s systematic refusal to accept any of the proposed
settlements.
4. On 15/9/1998, four "Rainbow" leaders are tried in Florina for the
violation of article 192 of the Penal Code (causing or inciting citizens to
acts of violence), because in 1995 the put up a sign written also in its
members’ mother tongue, Macedonian. Witnesses for the prosecution include
most local party and society leaders.
5. Finally, a day in court is expected for Sotiris Bletsas, member of the
Society for Aroumanian (Vlach) Culture, because in 1995 he had allegedly
distributed a publication of the European Union’s Bureau for Lesser Used
Languages (in which Sotiris Bletsas is the Greek "observer") which
mentioned the minority languages in Greece. The prosecution for
dissemination of false information (article 191 of the Penal Code) was
triggered by charges pressed by ND deputy Eugene Haitidis and the
prosecution’s witnesses include the leadership of the Panhellenic Union of
Vlach Associations.
If therefore Greece, on the occasion of the forthcoming (from 1/5/1998)
Presidency of the Council of Europe, wants to be aggressive in the field of
human rights, her political authorities must first and foremost train the
prosecuting and court authorities so that they respectfully apply the
international document ratified by the country and not be influenced by
extremist political and church circles.