New Acts of Harassment Against Mr Panayote Dimitras

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WORLD ORGANISATION AGAINST TORTURE (OMCT)

8, rue du Vieux Billard Case postale 21 1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland,

Tel: + 41 22 809 49 39 Telefax: +41 22 809 4929 Email: omct@omct.org

New acts of harassment against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, GHM Spokesperson and a member of OMCT Assembly of Delegates

CASE GRE 040408.2

Follow up of Cases GRE 040408 and GRE 040408.1

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

Harassment/ Defamation

Geneva, 17 September 2008

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has received new information and requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Greece.

New information:

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture network, about new acts of harassment against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, GHM Spokesperson and a member of OMCT Assembly of Delegates.

According to the information received, on 12 September 2008, the trial on appeal of the extreme-right newspaper Eleftheros Kosmos staff convicted on first instance to a suspended seven months sentence for violation of the [anti-racism] Law 927/79 for an anti-Semitic comment was heard before the First Three-Member Athens Appeals Court (Misdemeanors)[1]. At approximately 10:30 am, during the first recess of the hearing while the judges were conferring in chambers, Mr. Konstantinos Plevris, a member lawyer of the Athens Bar Association, approached Mr. Panayote Dimitras and told him: "though I like you, you have started to annoy me and you will feel what fascism means, because as you know I have declared that I am a fascist". Following GHM complaints, Mr. Konstantinos Plevris has been referred to trial four times for violation of [anti-racism] Law 927/79, concurrent aggravated defamation, and false accusation (See background information).

On 16 July 2008, Mr. Konstantinos Plevris had already defamed Mr. Panayote Dimitras when he presented his defense deposition before the Misdemeanours Prosecutor of Athens (via the 10th Athens Magistrate), following the complaint filed by Mr. Dimitras and Ms. Andrea Gilbert, GHM specialist on anti-Semitism (See background information)[2]. In his deposition, the lawyer explicitly defamed Mr. Dimitras, accusing him of being "a wretched traitor of Greece, actively and publicly supporting the existence of a Macedonian minority in this country" and of being "the object of a complaint for treason against the Fatherland", adding that "he has turned into a profession the filing of complaints against Prosecutors - e.g. Mr. Sanidas [the Supreme Court Prosecutor], Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Mr. Kanellopoulos, etc. - and against our Fatherland before international organisations". Mr. Plevris then said that Ms. Gilbert was "a Jewish-American who boasts of representing homosexual women, meaning that she is a psychologically defective, sexually perverted person who, as she does not respect her female nature, does not respect the truth either". Mr. Plevris ended his deposition, stating, "in no way [he would] accept to come into contact with these national traitorous and antisocial elements".

The International Secretariat of OMCT expresses its deep concern about these new acts of harassment against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities, in particular his activities against discrimination, anti-Semitism and minority rights in Greece.

The International Secretariat of OMCT also recalls that according to Article 12.2 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration".

Background information:

On 13 December 2007, Second Three-Member Appeals Court of Athens convicted Mr. Konstantinos Plevris to a suspended prison sentence of 14 months for "incitation to racial violence and hatred and for racial insults". The other three defendants - the publisher, editor, and journalist of Eleftheros Kosmos - were acquitted of the same charges. Mr. Plevris appealed the sentence.

Subsequent to the end of the trial, Mr. Plevris launched a series of legal actions for defamation and perjury against Mr. Dimitras, as well as against Ms. Andrea Gilbert and Messrs. Moses Konstantinis, Benjamin Albala, Abraham Reitan and Leon Gavriilidis, four members of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (Kentriko Israilitiko Symvoulio - KIS), who had all testified against him. As of September 2008, this criminal complaint was still in the phase of preliminary investigation, which, according to the law should not last more than four months.

Besides, Mr. Plevris also filed a complaint against GHM claiming it is redundant, illegal and implying its members are foreign agents. His complaints include again racist and defamatory comments. Nevertheless, the Chief Prosecutor of the First Instance Court of Athens and in one case the Chief Prosecutor of the Appeals Misdemeanors Court of Athens have decided that these criminal complaints were not completely unfounded, and launched preliminary criminal investigations.

On 16 January 2008, the Single-Member First Instance Court of Athens (Interim Measures) rejected the application lodged by Mr. Kostas Plevris requesting interim measure to freeze the assets of Ms. Andrea Gilbert.

Furthermore, regarding the second complaint lodged by Mr. Plevris against GHM and other NGOs, claiming that they are "redundant and illegal", and implying they are "foreign agents", the Prosecutor in charge launched an ex officio preliminary investigation only against GHM. In a first statement on 26 September 2007, Mr. Dimitras had called the investigation abusive as, inter alia, it did not specify the alleged criminal activities. Then, on February 21, 2008, the Prosecutor sent again the file, this time mentioning one legal provision for the investigation: Article 4 of the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisations, which states that "In each party the application of this Convention may only be excluded if the NGO invoking this Convention, by its object, its purpose or the activity which it actually exercises: a) contravenes national security, public safety, or is detrimental to the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others; or b) jeopardises relations with another State or the maintenance of international peace and security". This intervened just after GHM won its sixth case in nine months at the European Court of Human Rights - ECtHR (violation of religious freedom with the religious oath before the courts - four previous cases concerned police violence and one excessive length of proceedings).

As Mr. Dimitras noted in his 6 March 2008 statement to the magistrate, this provision or the related law does not include any sentence so as to be investigated during a criminal procedure, but may be used for a possible withdrawal of the recognition of GHM in a civil procedure. No real or alleged GHM action was listed by the Prosecutor that could have been the basis of the investigation. On the contrary, the Prosecutor asked for information of the administrative and financial functioning of GHM, including its income. Such questions were included in Mr. Plevris' complaint that triggered the investigation.

In his statement, Mr. Dimitras filed for the exemption of the Prosecutor from the investigation for his partiality as he recalled that the same Prosecutor had filed two GHM complaints in the past in a manner that had led GHM then to challenge his impartiality. In one of them, the Prosecutor had shelved the investigation of GHM claims that there was an improper investigation into the death of Mr. Gentjan Celnku in 2001: in July 2007, the ECtHR convicted Greece for the violation of Article 2 of ECHR both in its substantive and in its procedural limb, finding that "there was no effective investigation into the fatal shooting".

On 21 April 2008, a judicial council rejected Mr. Dimitras' application for exemption (decision 1148/2008), after a multiple unlawful procedure with the main argument that Mr. Dimitras was not entitled to seek an exemption as he was not a suspect, even though he had twice been lawfully summoned to, and did, testify as a suspect. As a result he was "convicted to pay the judicial expenses of 85 euros". There is no effective remedy to this decision. On 7 May 2008, Mr. Dimitras notified the Prosecutor and the President of the First Instance Court of all the reasons that made that decision illegal. There has been no answer or other action following that notification.

In October 2007, Mr. Plevris filed a complaint report against Mr. Dimitras claiming that, with texts that he wrote on the Macedonian minority in Greece - which include references to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and United Nations (UN) Treaty Bodies concerns and recommendations on the matter - he violated Article 138 paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code, which states: "one who attempts by force or by threat of force to detach from the Greek State territory belonging to it or to include territory of the Greek State in another state shall be punished by death" (another article commutes death sentences to life sentences). The Chief Prosecutor of the First Instance Court of Athens decided that the criminal complaint was not completely unfounded, and launched a related proprio motu preliminary criminal investigation against Mr. Dimitras. More than nine months later, the complaint is still in the phase of preliminary investigation.

Furthermore, an extreme right wing LAOS MP, Mr. Adonis Georgiadis, tabled in January and March 2008 two questions before Parliament demanding the investigation of GHM by the tax authorities. Although the objective criteria for the selection of those who are submitted to tax audits do not include audits at the request of MP's, the Minister of Economy has asked three tax offices to launch such audits: in addition to the one corresponding to the seat of GHM, the not competent tax offices corresponding to the postal office box address and to the GHM annex address have been involved. OMCT notes that the MP who tabled the question is the co-publisher of Mr. Plevris neo-Nazi book and a witness in the complaint of Mr. Plevris against GHM and KIS. Mr. Georgiadis' first question, moreover, was tabled the day after he was summoned to testify in the framework of a complaint for defamation, perjury and anti-Semitism filed by Mr. Dimitras against him for Mr. Georgiadis' sworn witness testimony. Mr. Georgiadis invoked his parliamentary immunity so as not to testify but then tabled the question. In the end of August 2008, Ms. Antonia Papadopoulou, a GHM member, was also called by the competent tax office for an audit "in the framework of the investigation of GHM", as she was told.

Finally, another extreme right wing LAOS MP, Mr. Thanos Plevris, son, professional and political associate of Mr. Kostas Plevris, also tabled a question in April 2008, asking the Minister of Justice to invoke his right to ask for a criminal investigation against the Macedonian minority political party "Rainbow" and GHM for violation of Article 138 paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code, with the same arguments of his father's complaint report (see above). The Minister used his right by referring the matter to the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court, because he considered the matter urgent and very important; the Prosecutor was still reviewing the request by mid-August 2008.

Actions required:

Please write to the Greek authorities, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Panayote Dimitras, Ms. Andrea Gilbert, Ms. Antonia Papadopoulou and Messrs. Moses Konstantinis, Benjamin Albala, Abraham Reitan and Leon Gavriilidis, as well as members of the Macedonian minority party "Rainbow";

ii. Put an end to all acts harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, Ms. Andrea Gilbert, Ms. Antonia Papadopoulou and Messrs. Moses Konstantinis, Benjamin Albala, Abraham Reitan and Leon Gavriilidis, as well as all human rights defenders in Greece;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", as well as above-mentioned Article 12.2;

iv. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Greece.

Addresses:

· Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, Prime Minister, Prime Minister's Office at the Hellenic Parliament, Greek Parliament Blgd, Constitution Square, Athens, Greece. Fax: +30 210 3238129, Email: Mail@primeminister.gr

· Ms. Dora Bakoyannis, Foreign Minister, Athens, Greece, Fax: + 30 210 36 81 433, Email: gpap@mfa.gr

· Mr. Sotiris Hatzigakis, Minister of Justice, Athens, Greece, Fax +30 2107489231

· Mr. Giorgos Kaminis, Ombudsman for Human Rights, Fax 30 210 7289643

· H.E. Franciscos Verros, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue du Léman 4, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.greece@ties.itu.int, Fax: +41 22 732.21.50

· Diplomatic Mission of Greece to the European Union, 25 rue Montoyer, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 512 79 12 / + 32 2 551 56 51.

Please also write to the embassies of Greece in your respective country.

***

Geneva, 17 September 2008

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

[1] See background information.

[2] Ms. Gilbert had testified at a trial against Eleftheros Kosmos, which had published articles on 27 October 2006 in conjunction of the anti-Semitic book by Mr. Plevris, The Jews - The whole truth (May 2006). In this book, Mr. Plevris glorifies Hitler and calls for the extermination of the Jews.

 















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