20 September 2010
As three Greek human rights activists are going on trial for speaking out against judges who acquitted a notorious anti-Semite and extreme-right politician in Greece, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) has called on the president of the European Parliament to send an official envoy to watch this trial in Athens. The WJC criticized the Greek judiciary for acquitting the self-declared anti-Semite Konstantinos Plevris last year and for now trying to silence the critics of this decision. WJC Vice President and Deputy Secretary-General Maram Stern stated: “We must not allow that people who speak out against bigots such as Mr. Plevris are being prosecuted whilst the hate mongers themselves are being acquitted by the courts.” In a letter to Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament, Stern called the trial “a perversion of justice” and “an assault on fundamental European values.” He voiced suspicion that parts of the Greek judiciary were not inclined to defend fundamental European values, but consciously acted against them.
In his letter, Stern called on the European Parliament to act: “Against the backdrop of previous court rulings in this case, we urge the European Parliament to dispatch an independent observer to this trial in order to ascertain whether the Greek courts act in agreement with the basic principles of the EU.” The WJC leader declared: “These three courageous people stood up against a notorious hate monger who has repeatedly called for the annihilation of Jews and praised the Nazis. They defended the small Jewish community in Greece, and they deserve our support.” The WJC also wrote letters to Greek President Papoulias, Prime Minister Papandreou and Greek Orthodox Primate Archbishop Ieronymos II, urging them to speak out against the trial and Plevris’ incitement.
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants supported the WJC call. Elan Steinberg, its vice-president, said: "Holocaust survivors are appalled that the Greek judiciary has initiated proceedings in which the victims are on trial and a vile hate monger stands as the accuser. Rarely have we seen such a grotesque perversion of justice. For the Greek courts to effectively act as an agent for a notorious Holocaust denier is a disgrace and an indictment of the Greek judicial system. Plevris has called Jews "subhuman" and is an open admirer of the Nazis. We demand that Greece's political and religious leaders speak out against this monstrous miscarriage of justice."
The lawyer and writer Konstantinos Plevris has repeatedly called Jews "subhuman" and said that "our race's instinct for survival points to the way of war to the death against Jewish Zionism.“ Plevris, an open admirer of National Socialism, was found guilty by a Greek court in 2007 of inciting to racial hatred through statements made in his book ‘Jews: the whole truth’, and condemned to 14 months of imprisonment on probation for three years for “racial insult” and “incitement to hatred and racial violence” on the basis of the 1979 anti-racist law. However, he was later acquitted by an appeals court. Plevris has sued senior representatives of the Greek Jewish community, several journalists as well as human rights activists for libel, and the public prosecutor’s office in Athens started legal action against members of the Greek Antinazi Initiative for publicly denouncing certain judges who participated in the judicial proceedings against Plevris. The trial opened on 22 September and was adjourned until December.
Last year, the Greek Jewish community expressed shock after Plevris was acquitted. The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) declared at the time: "This decision saddens and causes concern among citizens of a modern democratic society as a self-confessed advocate of Nazism and racism remains unpunished though he not only distorts proven historical evidence, but even worse, uses his pen to incite hatred and provoke discrimination and violence against citizens of Greece and Europe...Greek Jewry believes that the fundamental constitutional right of freedom of speech has nothing to do with the direct threats, insults and incitement to racial hatred and violence against the Jews that Plevris includes in his book.”
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