5 October 2012

Greek man arrested for blasphemy and religious insult (and other violations of freedom of expression in Greece)

It is not clear, as I maintained in the past, whether Greece is a theocratic state or not. A recent event confirms this in the affirmative:
A 27-year-old man was arrested in Greece for blasphemy against famous Greek monk, Elder Paisios, Business Insider reported.
Paisios, an Orthodox monk from Cappadocia who died in 1994, [is] highly venerated in Greece and Russia, and formal canonisation as saint in the near future has been speculated.
The unnamed suspect set up a Facebook page using the mocking name Geron Pastitsios, which is a Greek pasta dish.
The arrest was agitated by neo-Nazi Golden Dawn [neo-fascist] party, according to some Twitter users.
Three articles of the Greek Penal Code punish whoever "by any means blasphemes God". Article 199 states that "who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church" shall be punished "by imprisonment for not more than two years".
Such things happen from time to time in Greece. But I'm sure that it is not blasphemy against religion which is punishable; only blasphemy against the Greek state religion is punishable. I doubt that anyone would be arrested in Greece for insulting Ahura Mazda or Allah (and they should not).
In 2003, an Austrian writer, Gerhard Haderer, was prosecuted for his book The Life of Jesus, which reportedly portrayed Jesus as a hippie. He was acquitted in 2005.
Elder Paisios is the favourite persona of many reactionary, white supremacist, conspiracy theorist, extreme right-wing Greeks, the prototype of whom being a certain Dimosthenis Liakopoulos who, maintains, among other things, that Elder Paisios has prophesied about the future of Greece, that Vladimir Putin follows Paisios' teaching and is a big brother for Greece, and has many conspiracy theories and explanations about everything, maintaining a conspiracy page. Oh, yes, he also maintains that Greeks are supreme beings because they came from outer space. A few years ago, a blogger was arrested in Greece for linking a blog which was making fun of Liakopoulos.

With the rise of the fascist movement in Greece, due to the financial crisis, the rise of such arrests are growing. It is an alarming phenomenon. The linking of the extreme right and religion has always created big problems.

Freedom of expression is suppressed in Greece.

P.S.  Just today, I became aware, via justar-lawblog.blogspot.se, of two similar incidents:

In 2007, there was a performance, in Athens, of the well-known (musical?)  "Jesus Christ Superstar" of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The person in charge of the performance was sent to court. He was acquitted, but he faced threats and insults.

Yesterday, a crowd of Greeks protested against the upcoming performance of  "Corpus Christi" by Terrence McNally.
Thirty angry religious Greeks, with icons of saints in arms, among them some priests, and with the assistance far-right group, with Greek flags in their hands, appeared Thursday evening at the theatre in order to prevent and stop the performance Corpus Christi scheduled to take place next week.
[Fortunately] the court ruled against their will.
But the protesters were not happy with the decision. They went to the theatre and demanded that the announcements of the performance be taken down amidst signing of Byzantine hymns and the Greek national anthem.
 The line between what is considered blasphemy or not is, in Greece, fine. Sometimes the state will punish you, sometimes not. But in any case, you will face the anger of [certain] people who will not leave you alone.

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