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Greece: two human rights activists sentenced for denouncing the anti-Semitism of a cleric


Trial “disturbing”, “intimidation tactic to silence human rights defenders”. Amnesty International is alarmed by the 12-month suspended prison sentence of Panayote Dimitras, spokesperson for the NGO Greek Helsinki Monitor, and Andrea Gilbert, researcher at the NGO on issues of racism and anti-Semitism. The two activists are accused of having “slandered” and to have awarded “falsely” anti-Semitic remarks to the Metropolitan of Piraeus, Seraphim. They appealed this decision.

The case dates back to April 2017, the high dignitary of the Greek Orthodox Church had been declared persona non grata by the Israeli authorities when he was to participate in the traditional ceremony of the “sacred fire” in Jerusalem, on the eve of the Orthodox Easter. Ulcerated, he then published a letter on his website in which he described the “Zionism” like ” a dictatorship (…) who seeks world domination by a group of Jewish capitalists”. The Greek Helsinki Monitor then filed a complaint against him for comments “anti-Semitic and discriminating against Jews “.

“Judicial Harassment”

In 2019, it was dismissed, the prosecutor judging that the representative of the Church had expressed his personal position and did not incite the persecution of Jews. But Metropolitan Seraphim did not stop there and in turn sued the leaders of the NGO for “slanderous denunciation”. The trial resulted in the conviction on Tuesday of the two human rights defenders.

“Unfortunately, judges in Greece are very close to the Church and do not show much independence. There is no doubt that the remarks made by the Metropolitan contribute to the dissemination of harmful prejudices about the Jews and he has made this kind of speech on several occasions. But instead of condemning him, justice attacks human rights defenders who campaign against racism and anti-Semitism, it’s absurd! », maintains Panayote Dimitras.

The NGO Human Rights Watch is alarmed by “a disturbing trend in Greece of the state using the criminal justice system against civil society”.

The World Organization Against Torture recalls that “this is not the first time that members of the Greek Helsinki Monitor have faced judicial harassment and other acts of retaliation”. After defending a refugee who had been the victim of illegal refoulement off the island of Kos, Panayote Dimitras is being prosecuted in another case, accused of having assisted in the illegal entry into Greek territory of immigrants. The NGO Human Rights Watch is alarmed by “a disturbing trend in Greece of the state using the criminal justice system against civil society”.

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