END BLASPHEMY LAWS IN GREECE
Government – Democratic Coalition – The River:
Abolish the criminalization of blasphemy
Panel from a comics by Tomek Giovanis, on the trial of Philippos Louizos, who had a Fecbook page with the assumed name “Elder Pastitsios”
4 July 2016
«The abolition of the articles against blasphemy remains our declared aim» the Government states. «The crimes of malicious blasphemy and blasphemy concerning religions, and the whole chapter Z of the [Criminal] Code («crimes against religious freedom») refer to acts and «crimes» which for many years have lost whichever social value they had at the time they were legislated (1950). In the Democratic Coalition we have for some time expressed our firm and unequivocal support to the social demand for abolition of these anachronistic, frivolous and available for abusive use provisions». «Maybe it is the right time for the elimination of the provisions on «blasphemy» from the Criminal Code» said The River.
These were the answers of the Government, (socialist) Democratic Coalition and (socialist-affiliated) The River (To Potami) to an appeal of three international and fifty one national Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from around the world for the abolition of the articles on blasphemy from the Greek Criminal Code. The appeal and the Government’s answer in English are available at https://greekhelsinki.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/humanists-and-atheists-worldwide-call-for-the-abolition-of-blasphmey-articles-from-the-greek-criminal-code/ and the answers in Greek are available at https://greekhelsinki.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/κυβέρνηση-δημοκρατική-συμπαράταξη/.
On the other hand, New Democracy, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Center Union have not answered (yet). It is hoped that they will reply, even belatedly, out of respect for democratic procedures.
There is therefore a declared large majority of almost 180 (out of 300) MPs in favor of the abolition of these obsolete provisions that have afflicted the modern state of law. There is a large majority even if MPs of the (extreme right government coalition partner) Independent Greeks disagree. It is unlikely anyway that the KKE MPs will oppose the abolition of the articles against blasphemy. It is more likely that some MPs from other parties or independent may agree.
It is important however to stress that the abolition is not directed against the protection of the religious freedom and the religious identity of citizens, as is also pointed out in the detailed answers the Democratic Coalition and The River.
The Secretary-General for Transparency and Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice Kostis Papaioannou has committed to the UN both in October 2015 and in May 2016 that Greece will repeal outdated penal provisions like the articles against blasphemy. He will be found in the UN again in August 2016, where NGOs have already submitted the appeal with a request for a recommendation to Greece. It is hoped that by that time the Government will have launched the procedure for the abolition (with the mere phrace «Articles 198 and 199 of the Penal Code are abolished»…) of the two articles and/or the Democratic Coalition and The River will have raised the issue in the context of parliamentary control or even better would have tabled an amendment in some bill.
This will immediately lead to the quashing of pending prosecutions of both blogger Philippos Louizos (known as «Elder Pastitsios»), who in January 2014 was sentenced at first instance for blasphemy to ten months in prison and has appealed, and others who have yet to be referred to trial, like a football player who is being prosecuted for malicious blasphemy because he «insulted the divine» during a game in Argyroupoli in Drama on 31 January 2016.