reached after Kostas Plevris’ acquittal
A Nazi Justified
At the end of an exhausting
process lasting four whole sessions, the Athens Court of Appeal with five judges
on the bench last Friday pronounced Konstantinos Plevris not guilty of charges
brought against him under anti-racism law 927/79. Thus, the conviction to 14-month
imprisonment sentence on probation that he had received at first degree for
the content of his book “The Jews, the Whole Truth”, was overturned.
Law 927/79 has rarely been implemented during its thirty-year history and a decision reached by a higher court, such as the court that heard this case, is, of course, a significant factor in case-law that is just beginning to take shape and form.
Though we do not know the precise reasoning behind the decision, the district attorney’s address and the reasoning behind the stance taken by the one appeal court judge who was out-voted, we may conclude that Mr Plevris’ acquittal was not based on any interpretation (albeit extreme) of freedom of speech, neither were any legal problems relating to the initial guilty verdict invoked in order to support an acquittal decision.
It would seem that the decision fully accepted Mr Plevris’ claims, namely that regarding whatever he blames the Jews for since the world was created in his book, he does not refer to them “solely on the grounds of their racial or ethnic origins or religion”. The Greek Justice deemed that sayings such as the following do not incite racial discrimination or violence (necessary for the law against racism to be enforced); they are not even insulting:
- “That’s what the Jews deserve. For it’s the only way they understand: firing squad within 24 hours...”
- “The Jew (in religion) and the human being are contradicting terms, that is the one excludes the other”
- “Their whole criminal behaviour of the Jews explains the Nazis’ deeds against them, and more than that, it justifies them”.
- «The history of the humankind will hold Adolf Hitler responsible for the following: He did not rid Europe from the Jews while he could».
- “We despise the Jews for their morality, for their religion, for their deeds, which all prove that they are sub-humans”.
We could go on and quote dozens more such sayings, but there is no point.
The conclusion is that the Greek Parliament would do well to abolish this “unnecessary” law, as the son of Mr Plevris and his associates in the right wing of the extreme right, so fervently desire. This is because the Judiciary was not responsible for this fiasco, neither was the panel of judges in this particular court case. The state left this law unsought ever since it came into force. Even the change of bringing charges under this law to ex officio –while originally the victim was required to file a complaint- has made the law even harder to enforce. On the ground of the fact that the charge is brought ex officio, the court excludes the representation of civil claimants, thereby depriving the victims of racial discrimination of the right to legal representation in court. That way there is no one to answer when racist propaganda monopolizes the floor. (See “Racism, Crime and Democracy,” Ios, 23/11/08).
A good case in point: when the accused was bringing his speech in his own defence to a close, the appeal court judge who was in favour of a guilty verdict but was out-voted asked Mr Plevris if he knew about law 927/79 before writing his book. Mr Plevris gave a very definitely negative answer. He was backed up by Thanos Plevris MP, who insisted that they “looked into that law” after the book was written. The son of Mr Plevris returned to this point in his address to the court, “We genuinely did not know about the law. I remember [when legal proceedings had already begun under law 927/79] that we searched for information about it on the site of the Bar Association. We did not know that there was such a law”.
The accused and his MP legal
counsel thus made a mockery of the court. A defendant does, of course, even
have the right to tell lies if doing so he improves his position. All those
involved in the case, however, were expected to have made themselves familiar
with the contents of the book. Yet in this book, on pages 1294-6 the whole of
law 927/79 is laid out and there are even detailed comments on the later amendments
In other words, Mr Plevris the father and Mr Plevris the son knew very well what the law was about and knowingly lied to the judges. If a council for the civil claimants had been present, i.e. if there had been a response to the legal standing and to the essence of what was said, this deception would not have gone unnoticed.
However, the whole trial was a real recital of Nazi propaganda by the defendant, and on many occasions he managed to focus the attention of the court on the political convictions of the witnesses for the prosecution and on how strong their national beliefs were. Both he and the presiding judge were most persistent in questioning representatives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) about their views on such issues as the Macedonian question! And the court wondered if they had lodged similar legal complaints about books that do not comply with national policy on the question of Macedonia, as though the anti-racism laws were written to endorse any given policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As for the witnesses for the prosecution, representatives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities, the Anti-Nazi Initiative and the Greek Helsinki Monitor, they were put in a position where they had to defend themselves against assaults, which simply confirmed that the charges were justified. At least twice in his address to the court, Mr Plevris the son forgot his lines and revealingly referred to the witnesses for the prosecution as “the accused”.
We have, in a previous article, mentioned that the history of Mr. Plevris, the father, is well-known and his book would not have made any particular impact had it not been made into a sort of political New Testament for the LAOS party through promotion by Adonis Georgiades and on the web site of Mr Karatzaferis’ party youth. And, of course, the book’s appearance on the market and Mr Karatziaferis’ embracing the most shockingly repulsive, anti-Semitic expression, according to which “Jews smell of blood” (‘A1’, 3/1/09) cannot be totally unrelated.
The political problem raised by the court’s ruling in favour of Plevris/ Karatzaferis is that it shows the Greek State to be inconsistent: On every international forum the government presents law 927/79 as a cure-all for instances of anti-Semitism and points to the original conviction of Mr. Plevris as proof that the law is actually enforced! We might mention the Greek report submitted to the relevant committee of the United Nations, i.e. the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD, 3/4/08, par.133), the hotly debated [UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues] McDougall Report (par. 37), and reports to the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
But this is a matter that mainly concerns (or ought to concern) society as a whole. The insult coming form the justification of the book does not only turn against the few thousand Jews in Greece. It turns mainly against the memory of the tens of thousands of Greek Jews who were exterminated in horrible death camps by people who held the same views as Mr Plevris. If there is one country in Europe where anti-Semitism should not be permitted, not even as a reminder of evil, that country is Greece because Greece mourns the proportionately greatest losses among its pre-war Jewish communities. Ultimately, the insult is to the intelligence and sensitivity of every democratically-minded member of the public.