19/04/2017: Six prosecutions of Thessaloniki Pride for blasphemy

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joined thess pride photosThe official poster (left – text reads “love each other”) and the poster for which Bishop Amvrosios (pictured) and others have filed complaints against Thessaloniki Pride (right – text read “he was crucified for us too”)

On 9 June 2016, the Metropolitan of Kalavryta and Aegialia Amvrosios announced from his personal blog that he filed a complaint for violation of articles 198 para. 1 of the Criminal Code (malicious blasphemy) and 199 of the Criminal Code (offeding religion) by a poster he was attributing to Thessaloniki Pride, reproduced next to the Bishop’s photo above on the right. This poster was however not the official poster of Thessaloniki Pride; the latter is reproduced above on the left left.

On the previous day, 8 June 2016, two lawyers in Athens filed a complaint for the same alleged offenses at the Pangrati Police Station, which led to the formation of two court case files by both the Pangrati Police Station and the Office of the Prosecutor at the Court of Fisrt Instance of Thessaloniki.

Finally, on 16 June 2016, in the Police Station of the Karditsa District, three identical complaints were filed by citizens for the same alleged offenses, for which the Office of the Prosecutor at the Court of Fisrt Instance of Thessaloniki made three separate court case files.

The leaders of Thessaloniki Pride have so far been summoned to provide explanations for five of the six cases, those ensuing from the complaints filed in Athens and in Karditsa.

Regardless of whether or not the disputed poster was related to Thessaloniki Pride, whether or not the poster in question is blasphemous (which it is not), and whether or not the complaints have themselves ex officio prosecutable homophobic content and whether therefore the prosecuting authorities have proceeded or not in the formation of court case files for this homophobic content, the main fact is that the second most important Pride festival in Greece is the object of multiple prosecution with (at least) six court case files for blasphemy.

The prosecution is based on the two articles with which blasphemy is being prosecuted in Greece. Since a year and a half ago, the left-extreme right coalition government’s General Secretaries for Human Rights Kostis Papaioannou and Maria Yannakaki and its former Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos have repeatedly assured not only Greek public opinion and the Greek NGO that coordinates the international campaign to abolish the blasphemy articles from the Greek criminal code, but also the relevant UN human rights bodies, that the blasphemy articles will be abolished. Despite the government’s assurances, the UN made an express recommendation to Greece in August 2016 to abolish these articles.

But as with other promises on human rights issues, such as the introduction of a gender idnetity recognition law, government assurances have not been followed up thus exposing the government leaders who gave them but have not explained as they should have, even when they are no longer in government, why they did not implement them. It therefore goes without saying that the ongoing criminal prosecution for blasphemy is carried out with governmental will.

PS. In January 2017, police announced the arrest of two civilians charged with inter alia malicious blasphemy in Epirus. In February 2017, a four game exclusion was imposed on a footballer because he cursed the divine in Kilkis. In March 2017, police announced the arrest of a citizen charged with inter alia malicious blasphemy in Central Greece. In April 2017, a citizen was arrested for a malicious blasphemy in Volos. It is certain that there are currently scores of prosecutions for blasphemy throughout the country that are simply not publicized so that they can easily be found with Internet searches.

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