Greece: Ongoing judicial harassment against Panayote Dimitras

05/09/2022
Urgent Appeal
Photo: Tingey injury law firm

GRE 002 / 0922 / OBS 067
Judicial harassment
Greece
September 5, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your intervention in the following situation in Greece.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) about the judicial harassment and upcoming trials against Mr. Panayote Dimitras, GHM co-founder and spokesperson, and member of the OMCT’s General Assembly.

Panayote Dimitras will face three trials before the Three-Member Misdemeanours Court of Athens on September 7, and October 6 and 10, 2022, on charges of “false accusation” and –in two of them- “aggravated defamation” (Articles 229 and 363 of the Criminal Code of Greece, respectively). If convicted and sentenced for all charges, he would face up to 7 years of imprisonment and a fine up to 15,000 euros.

The first trial against Mr. Dimitras is related to a complaint of “public incitement to violence or hatred” he filed in November 2017 before the Public Prosecutor’ s Office at the Athens Court of First Instance against Mr. Kostas Katsikis, then Member of the Greek Parliament for the extreme-right party Independent Greeks. According to Mr. Panayote Dimitras’ complaint, Mr. Katsikis made a racist, homophobic and transphobic speech during a parliamentary debate on December 12, 2016. On February 2019, Mr. Katsikis filed a complaint of “false accusation” and “aggravated defamation” against Mr. Dimitras before the Public Prosecutor’ s Office at the Athens Court of First Instance. It is in relation to this complaint by Mr. Katsikis that Mr. Dimitras will be tried on September 7, 2022.

The second trial against Mr. Dimitras is related to a complaint of “violating the Law on Combatting Racism and Xenophobia” he filed in December 2018 before the Department for Combating Racist Violence (Attica Division) of the Hellenic Police against musician and actor Mr. Yannis Zouganelis. According to the complaint, Mr. Zouganelis made racist comments against Greece-based migrants in a statement he made on TV on December 19, 2018. On March 26, 2019, Mr. Zouganelis filed a complaint against Panayote Dimitras for “false accusation” and “aggravated defamation” before the Public Prosecutor’ s Office at the Athens Court of First Instance. It is in relation to this complaint by Mr. Zouganelis that Mr. Dimitras will be tried on October 6, 2022.

Finally, the third trial against Mr. Dimitras is related to a complaint of “violating the Law on Combatting Racism and Xenophobia” he filed in December 2018 before the Department for Combating Racist Violence (Attica Division) of the Hellenic Police against Mr. Christos Kalyviotis, Mayor of Limni - Mantoudi - Agia Anna. According to Mr. Dimitras’ complaint, Mr. Kalyviotis equated asylum seekers and refugees to criminals in December 13, 2018. On April 22, 2019, Mr. Kalyviotis filed an oral complaint at a local police station for “false accusation” and “aggravated defamation” against Panayote Dimitras. The complaint was transferred to the Public Prosecutor’ s Office at the Athens Court of First Instance on July 16, 2019, and a preliminary investigation was opened on January 8, 2020. It is in relation to this complaint by Mr. Kalyviotis that Mr. Dimitras will be tried on October 10, 2022.

The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time Panayote Dimitras faces judicial harassment and other acts of reprisals in retaliation for his legitimate human rights work, including acts of intimidation and unfounded accusations. On February 15, 2022, Mr. Dimitras and Ms. Andrea Gilbert, GHM specialist on anti-Semitism, were sentenced to a twelve-month prison sentence suspended for three years on the charge of “false accusation” in relation to a complaint for “public incitement to violence or hatred” and “abuse of ecclesiastical office” they filed in April 2017 against the Metropolitan Bishop of Piraeus Seraphim.

The Observatory further recalls that the situation of human rights defenders in Greece has been critical for years. Human rights defenders are consistently targeted for their legitimate work and face different types of attacks, including surveillance, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests, detentions, ill-treatment, entry bans and expulsion.

The Observatory expresses concern over the judicial harassment against Panayote Dimitras and urges the Greek authorities to respect his rights to due process and fair trial, and to ensure that an end is put an to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him, as well as all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Greece, urging them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Panayote Dimitras;
ii. Ensure that an immediate end is put to all act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Panayote Dimitras and Ms. Andrea Gilbert, as well as against all human rights defenders in Greece.

Addresses:

• Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Email: mail@primeminister.gr
• Minister of Justice Mr. Konstantinos Tsiaras, Email: grammateia@justice.gov.gr
• General Secretary for Justice and Human Rights, Mr. Panos Alexandis Email: ggdad@justice.gov.gr
• Permanent Representative of Greece, Ms. Anna Korka, Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: grdel.gva@mfa.gr
• Ambassador of Greece, H.E. Eleftheria Galathianaki, Embassy of Greece in Brussels, Belgium, Email: gremb.bru@mfa.gr
• Permanent Representative of Greece, H.E. Andreas Papastavrou, Permanent Representation to the European Union (EU), Email: mea.bruxelles@rp-greece.be
• Greece’s Special Envoy on Combating Antisemitism at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Efstathios Lianos Liantis, Email: envoy.ihra@mfa.gr

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

***
Geneva-Paris, September 5, 2022

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39
• Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18

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