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Greek Foreign Minister acts to shut down Athens Review of Books


On 24 July the Greek Foreign Minister Mr Nikos Kotzias took action to freeze the bank accounts of the publisher of the monthlyAthens Review of Books(ARB) and impound the proceeds of the sales from its distribution company. The AEJ Greek section condemned the actions as unacceptable and issued the following press release.

During the past years, Mr. N. Kotzias, has used the Greek judiciary to wage a vindictive campaign against the ARB — the Greek equivalent of theThe New York Review of Books. The pretext was the publication by the ARB of a reader’s letter to the editor. The letter brought the Minister’s Stalinist past to the attention of the public, referring to a time when he was one of the most fanatical members of the Communist Party of Greece, and in particular the time when as a Central Committee member of the party he was responsible for Propaganda. The reader’s letter argued that the Minister had been«the most extreme, the most fanatical, brutaland ruthless communist of his/our generation, a veritable Gauleiter of Stalinism».

The Minister took the case to court, claiming that this political characterization constituted libel, and asked for compensation. Greek judges are widely seen as being concerned to protect politicians rather than upholding the freedom of the press, and the Appeals Court ruled in the Minister’s favour.

The lack of seriousness of the Appeals Court judgment, which the Greek Supreme Court subsequently upheld, is manifest in that it includes outrageous claims such as the following:

«Even though it was proven that the plaintiff[:Foreign Minister N. Kotzias]was a founding member[!]of the Greek Communist Party» [which was founded in 1924 whereas the Minister was born in 1950], «neither is it proven from the documents that thedefendants have submitted to the court that he admired the stated absolutist regime[i.e. Honecker’s, which was in fact totalitarian, not absolutist]nor that he advertised it».

One of the many pieces of evidence that were submitted to the courts was the propagandist bookDer autonome Intellekt(Independent[sic]Mind), co-authored by N. Kotzias under the supervision of Manfred Buhr (known by the code name “Rehbein” – “Deerfoot” ), the Head of Ideological Propaganda of Erik Honecker’s regime in East Germany and a high ranking Stasi agent-. The book was published by the East German State-Communist Party publishing house Akademie Verlag in 1976 .

The judgment of the Appeals Court has been lamented by Greek academics, the President of the Athens Academy, eminent professors and well-known legal professionals, while articles condemning the court’s decision have been published in academic journals.

TheAthens Review of Booksis taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which in the past has twice ruled in favor of its director in similar cases concerning the freedom of speech.