Unprecedented conviction for an opinion crime
The Hellenic League of Human Rights cannot help voicing its concern and surprise for a conviction imposed for the circulation of a brochure stating that there are other languages spoken in Greece other than Greek; especially when the brochure in question quotes an official publication of the European Union. This action was judged as “dissemination of false of erroneous information capable of causing concern or fear to civilians” (Article 191 criminal code).
The architect Mr. S. Bletsas was convicted by the first instance court of Athens, on the 2.2.01, on the grounds that “he distributed a brochure, in which he knew that it was erroneously mentioned that in Greece there are spoken, at least, 5 languages other than Greek”. This conviction overwhelms the precedent of the Greek justice, which was painfully established in the early 90s. At that time the penalization of the discourse questioning the official public discourse on ?national? issues led to dangerous legal and political impasses, both domestically and internationally.
Henceforth the possibility for a new defamation of Greece by the international institutions and especially the prospect of a new conviction by the European Court of Human Rights for violating the right to the freedom of expression (article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights) is beyond the point. Besides, it does not seem to bother the complainant Mr. Evgenios Xaitidis, deputy of the Serres district, and certain Greek courts.
The most important and alarming issue is the degree of violation of the right to the freedom of expression. It seems such violations presently extend -apart from the dissenting political opinion on minority issues- to assertions and scientific findings, such as the fact that other languages besides Greek are spoken in Greece.
Finally it is noteworthy that Mr. Bletsas was convicted because a brochure of the European Bureau for the Lesser-Used Languages was found in his possession. This organization, which is funded by the European Commission, is dedicated to the research and protection of these languages. Given the opportunity, we wish to inform those interested or their aspiring complainants that the offices of the European Commission in Athens officially distribute the aforementioned brochure.
For the Directing Board of HLHR,
Pr. Nikos K. Alivizatos
Dr Dimitris G. Christopoulos