Greece: humanists sentenced to one-year suspended jail term

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 18 February 2022

Humanists International is deeply concerned to learn that prominent human rights defenders and members of the Humanist Union of Greece were convicted of filing a “false complaint” and sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years. 

Human rights defender Panayote Dimitras

Members of the Humanist Union of Greece, Panayote Dimitras and Andrea Gilbert were convicted of filing a “false complaint” (Article 229 of the Penal Code) against the Metropolitan Bishop of Piraeus Seraphim by the Three-Judge Misdemeanors Court of Athens on 15 February 2022. They were sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years. Dimitras and Gilbert have filed an appeal.

The case relates to a complaint filed in 2017 by the pair while acting on behalf of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, which alleged that a high-ranking Bishop had abused his ecclesiastical office and incited hatred in a statement deemed to be filled with anti-Semitic rhetoric published on the website of the Diocese of Piraeus.

Their complaint, filed before the Department for Combating Racist Violence (Attica Division), was eventually thrown out by the prosecutor two years later; the Bishop responded by filing a counter-complaint against Dimitras and Gilbert.

LGBTI+ rights and anti-Semitism specialist, Andrea Gilbert

The Metropolitan Bishop of Piraeus Seraphim is reported to have espoused anti-Semitic, as well as homophobic, views before; in 2010, he reportedly told a local TV station that Jews had orchestrated the Holocaust and were to blame for Greece’s debilitating debt crisis; in 2015, he attributed new legislation giving same-sex couples expanded civil rights to the “international Zionist monster” controlling the leftist government then in power, and warned that passing such legislation would bring the wrath of God upon them.

Dimitras and Gilbert have long faced harassment and threats for their committed engagement to the defense of human rights through their involvement with the Greek Helsinki Monitor. 

Humanists International’s Casework & Campaigns Manager, Emma Wadsworth-Jones stated:

Emma Wadsworth-Jones, Casework & Campaigns Manager

“That Dimitras and Gilbert have been convicted for challenging the promotion of racism and hate speech by a religious leader and defending human rights and non-discrimination is deeply troubling. The ruling may have far-reaching repercussions for human rights advocates in the country who seek to speak truth to power.

“This case forms part of a wider pattern of harassment that they have faced for decades as a result of their human rights advocacy, particularly their advocacy for marginalized communities in Greece. Their conviction represents a gross miscarriage of justice, and we call on the authorities to overturn their convictions.” 

Humanists International calls on the Greek authorities to quash their convictions immediately and unconditionally, believing that their sentences are directly linked to their peaceful and legitimate work in defense of human rights.


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