Greece: humanists acquitted on appeal, but smear campaign continues

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 8 September 2023

LGBTI+ rights and anti-Semitism specialist, Andrea Gilbert

Humanists International welcomes the news that prominent human rights defenders and members of the Humanist Union of Greece, Panayote Dimitras and Andrea Gilbert, have been acquitted of “filing a false complaint” on appeal.

Dimitras and 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.

While Dimitras and Gilbert were acquitted on appeal on 16 June 2023, the climate for the non-religious and human rights defenders remains hostile. Dimitras, in particular, continues to face judicial harassment and smear campaigns in reprisal for his work to defend human rights.

Most recently, on 14 July 2023, Dimitras was formally notified of the Anti-Money Laundering Authority‘s decision to freeze assets contained in a private account. This notification was delivered more than three weeks late, and six weeks after the seizure of his assets had been reported in the media.

Media outlets reported as early as 31 May that Dimitras’ assets had been frozen, erroneously indicating that all of his assets, as well of those of the NGOs that he manages, had been seized. The law obliges the Authority to notify individuals affected by such decisions within 20 days, however, it failed to serve such notice to Dimitras at all; he instead learned of the decision upon notification by the Athens Prosecutor of First Instance.

Panayote together with Nafsika Papanikolatou

The AMLA alleges that Dimitras – and his wife and colleague, Nafsika Papanikolatou – misappropriated funds acquired by the Greek Helsinki Monitor for projects between January 2010 and July 2015; allegations that Dimitras vehemently denies. Indeed, Dimitras has emphasized that no donor has ever expressed concern regarding the misappropriation of their funds, and that the organization has passed audits, and has consistently run on a deficit since 2008.

Dimitras believes that the investigation is part of an ongoing smear campaign being waged in retaliation for his work, and believes that while the AMLA failed to notify him of the freezing of one of his personal accounts, the Authority chose to leak misleading information to the press.

On 1 August 2023, Dimitras filed an appeal against the AMLA’s decision to freeze his bank account, seeking the overturning of the decision. At the same time, Dimitras filed a complaint against the President of the Authority as well as all other personnel for abuse of power, defamation, aggravated defamation, breach of duty and breach of official secrecy with the Athens Prosecutor of First Instance.

While Humanists International welcomes the acquittal of Dimitras and Gilbert, the organization calls on the authorities to drop all other pending cases against Dimitras, which it believes form part of a pattern of harassment designed to discredit his work to defend human rights.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

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