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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Greek Helsinki Monitor: "Some people support freedom of speech... only for racist speech"

The Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) issued today a press release ahead of a trial tomorrow involving three of its officials as well as three officials from the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (CBJCG), who are accused of false accusations, witness perjury and libel by Kostas Plevris. Plevris is widely considered as the theoretician of neo-Nazism in Greece and was sued by the GHM and the CBJCG for his book Jews: The Whole Truth. A first tribunal had found him guilty of antisemitism  in 2007, but the sentence was overturned on appeal in 2009 in a decision that was ratified by the Supreme Court in 2010. The Supreme Court decision was deemed scandalous by many, given the contents of the book, which includes for instance chapters titled "The religion of the Jews: crime and misanthropy" or "The Holocaust: evidence of a lie" (you can listen to last Saturday's #rbnews international show on laws against racism in Greece for context on this matter).
What is noteworthy in the lawsuit filed against the GHM and the CBJCG is the fact that witnesses for the prosecution are Kostas Plevris himself and two far-right publishers (Ioannis Schoinas and Christos Kossioris) as well as Adonis Georgiadis. Georgiadis is currently a member of parliament for Prime Minister Samaras's party, New Democracy, which he joined in February 2012 after his former party, the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) withdrew its support for the Papademos government. He also used to promote Plevris's book on his TV show. As we highlighted in a post published last year, and discussed again more recently in our recent interview with Dimitris Psarras, Georgiadis is not the only far-right MP who joined New Democracy at the time. Another, prominent such case is Makis Voridis, who has now been promoted to the position of parliamentary spokesman for New Democracy. In an article published in Haaretz last year shortly after Voridis joined New Democracy, Sabby Mionis, a Greek-Israeli Jew who was a classmate of Voridis, describes him as follows:

Voridis has a long history of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, including physical threats to Jewish families and leading groups of thugs against immigrants and leftists. Over the last couple of weeks he has smoothed over his thuggish past by describing it as "right-wing activism". As a student at the elite Athens College high school, alma mater of current Prime Minister Papadimos, former Prime Minister Papandreou, Samaras and myself, Voridis formed the fascist student group “Free Students” that painted the walls with swastikas and saluted each other with using [sic] the Nazi-era greeting "Heil Hitler." 

The GHM press release on tomorrow's trial indirectly takes note of the prominence of such far-right opinions in the circles of power but also in the media:
Lastly, the GHM notes the absolute silence of all political parties, of almost all mass media as well as other Greek civil society organizations with regard to this trial. Particularly noteworthy is the silence of all those who, in a series of articles and statements, had condemned the court case against Kostas Plevris because, in their opinion, it violated his right to free speech. Apparently, the counter-case against those who sued them does not violate any of the rights (to free speech or anything else) of the representatives of the GHM and the CBJCG who will go on trial. These individuals and these agencies seem to be supporters of freedom of expression only for racist discourse but not for anti-racist discourse or anti-racist action. 
On the other hand, the final acquittal of Kostas Plevris was condemned, directly or indirectly, by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks in 2013 and in 2009 by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. The World Organization Against Torture has expressed concerns about the trial of GHM and CBJCG officials, as has Amnesty International: "Amnesty International believes that charges such as these have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the ability of human rights defenders to do their work."

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