Panayote Dimitras Facing High Treason Charges for Speaking about Macedonians

PRESS RELEASE 17 September 2008

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Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) distributes the transcription of an interview by its Spokesperson Panayote Dimitras to BBC Macedonian given on 16 September 2008, after the press conference in Athens of the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues Gay McDougall. The interview was given in English and broadcast with a voice over in Macedonian (available electronically at The transcription is from a translation back to English. As a result there are several mistakes corrected by GHM below. Parallel to that interview, Panayote Dimitras gave several interviews to Greek and British media.

Panayote Dimitras facing high treason charges for speaking about Macedonians


Mr Panayote Dimitras

"Greece has an investigation against me, the charges are "high treason", because I had spoken about the Macedonians in Greece," says Panayote Dimitras in an interview for BBC Macedonian.

Mr. Dimitras is a member of the Greek Helsinki Monitor.

"I already met the prosecutor and gave my statement. If I end up in Court, the only possible sentence is jail for life," says Dimitras, a long time campaigner for minority rights in Greece.

This interview was done shortly after the visit of UN Independent minority expert Gay McDougall in Northern Greece. Mr. Dimitras accompanied McDougall on her visit. [GHM note: incorrect - Mr. Dimitras met with Ms. McDougall in Athens and was also present in her press conference; he did not accompany her anywhere].

Himself and other members of the Greek Helsinki Monitor informed McDougall on all questions regarding her mandate; on the Macedonian, Turkish, religious minorities, including the Roma population, problems with racism and anti-Semitism.

"The message to the UN expert was this: the conditions in Greece are dire; none of the minority groups are represented at any level. In fact, if and when any of these minorities have a complaint, they are frequently attacked by the Media and Government. It's not just minorities. Organizations, such as ours that fights for equal rights and promotes rights, are being attacked. If I can use one sentence: Democracy in Greece came in 1974, it has yet to come for the minorities," says Mr. Dimitras.

Can you describe McDougall's reaction after she heard the responses from Greek Helsinki Monitor?

- We are not allowed to speak of her reactions. The only thing I can say is, something that she said at a Press Conference in Athens that the recommendations and suggestions of the UN Committee, and the Greek Helsinki Monitor would be part of her report [GHM note: incorrect - Mr. Dimitras mentioned that the recommendations of the UN Treaty Bodies and other intergovernmental organizations will be included in her report]. And in those reports it is easy to see that Greece negates the existence of Macedonian and Turkish people, as well as the catastrophic situation of our Roma population. I do not doubt for a second that McDougall's report would be much different than our [GHM note: Greece's not GHM's] official position i.e. there are people in Greece who identify themselves differently from the Greeks.

Do you think this visit will change something?

- It is difficult to say. Because the European Council [GHM note: Council of Europe] and the UN have both recommended Greece change its behavior, but Greece hasn't done a thing. In fact, it's worse. We [GHM note: we here means Greece not GHM] don't change anything because we don't have to fear anything. There are no sanctions against Greece, except for the European Court for Human Rights where we have lost cases, cases that Greece ignores. In this country, if you speak about minorities, you are asking for trouble. This will stay the way it is, until Greece is faced with sanctions.

Do you personally have problems?

- Well, there is a case against me, for high treason because I spoke about the Macedonian minority. I met the prosecutor, gave my statement. I am facing life in prison if convicted. I am hoping my case won't get to that point, but I have to admit, this is not pleasant for me, at all. Vinozito (Rainbow) is facing similar actions, when a Radical Right Wing [GHM note: Extreme Right Wing - i.e. LAOS] party in Parliament asked to press for high treason charges against them. Our Justice Minister accepted the request, which is now being forwarded to the Prosecutor.

(Interview translated from Dnevnik)