Kathimerini (English language edition) published on 18 May 2017 an intentionally misleading and unethical article on the Soti Triantafyllou trial for inciting racial hatred and violence instrumentalizing an interview with Greek Helsinki Monitor Spokesperson Panayote Dimitras. Kathimerini‘s article and GHM‘s answers are appended below: in effect, GHM answers were published by GHM before Kathimerini (hereafter “K”) published its own text.
First, K wrote that there was a (civil) lawsuit filed by GHM against Triantafyllou, a false claim to mislead the readership. Indeed, lawsuits are filed in civil courts for damages, and once filed always lead to trials, where there are no prosecutors but just the two parties. On the contrary, (criminal) complaints or complaint reports are filed in criminal courts and it is up to the prosecutor to decide if the case should be referred to trial and then it is the prosecutor who draws up the charges.
Secondly, there was no lawsuit or even complaint by GHM against Triantafyllou, but a lengthy complaint report with more than a score of actions considered by GHM as racist and for that reason reported to the prosecutor. All that was known to K as it was mentioned in the published GHM replies to K’s questions. Hence, K decided intentionally to mislead its readership so as to present that there was an isolated lawsuit leading to an inevitable trial.
Thirdly, K falsely presents the merits of the case as if they concern the accuracy of Marco Polo’s alleged statement, whereas the case concerns Triantafyllou‘s racist views regardless of the accuracy of the statement.
Fourthly, K mentions that GHM has reported more than 150 other texts or actions to the special prosecutor on racist crimes, but does not add -although mentioned by GHM– that this was done to help Greece implement UN and Council of Europe recommendations to prosecute and punish hate speech. K wanted to continue the unethical practice of all Greek media , including K, to censor these recommendations so that the readers are not informed of these international obligations of the country.
Fifthly, K quotes supportingly Triantafyllou‘s false claim that she was indicted for blasphemy, by falsely claiming that (when calling all Muslims criminals) “she targetted a religion focusing on its political manifestations in the context of specific events.” The truth is that she was indicted for racism and the specific criminal provision is included in GHM‘s reply to K. The latter though did not want to properly inform the readers and thus censored that part too, instead claiming with irony but intentionally falsely that “the plaintiff will have a hard case to make,” whereas there is no plaintiff and GHM has no case to make in a trial in which GHM is not a party: in a criminal trial for such an ex officio prosecutable crime, the case to make is the prosecutor’s! This K’s readers do not know as K did not want them to know it, as they intentionally misled them to believe that this is a GHM v. Triantafyllou lawsuit trial rather than a Prosecutor v. Triantafyllou criminal trial.
Sixthly, K quotes a supposed authority, Vassilis Tzevelekos, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Liverpool’s School of Law and Social Justice. After disagreeing with the referral to trial, he claims that “Hate speech laws are not designed to prosecute that type of speech.” For him, calling all Muslims criminals is not even hate speech! It is an expression of Triantafyllou‘s ideas about a major political issue that concerns our democracy!
Seven, K provides false information on the decision of the court in the Richter case. It claims that the court found Article 2 of the anti-racism law in general “incompatible with the Constitution and European law, and as such is ineffective and inapplicable,” whereas the court ruled that this incompatibility concerned only the denial of crimes “recognized with decisions of the Greek Parliament” and not of all crimes, like for example the Holocaust!
Finally the apotheosis of unethical false and misleading information by both K and the supposed academic authority Vassilis Tzevelekos is in the following excerpt:
“If the Greek court fails to protect Triantafyllou’s right to free speech, it looks like she will have a strong case against the Greek state. If she is convicted, Greek legislators and the judiciary interpreting the hate speech legislation could be found internationally liable for breaches of fundamental human rights law. “The European Court of Human Rights has a rich case file on free speech that does not just cover information or ideas that are regarded as inoffensive, but also those that offend, shock and disturb,” Tzevelekos said.”
It takes only a few minutes of consultation of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) fact sheet “Hate speech” to see that the Court protects “information or ideas … that offend, shock and disturb” only when they do not include racist speech:
“… [T]olerance and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings constitute thefoundations of a democratic, pluralistic society. That being so, as a matter of principle it may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance …, provided that any ‘formalities’, ‘conditions’, ‘restrictions’ or ‘penalties’ imposed are proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.” (Erbakan v. Turkey judgment of 6 July 2006, § 56). [emphasis in the original]
In the long list of cases in the fact sheet, one will find inter alia the confirmation by the Court of domestic judgments in Belgium punishing as incitement to racial discrimination the statements “Stand up against the Islamification of Belgium”, “Stop the sham integration policy” and “Send non-European job-seekers home;” as well as in France punishing as incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence the statement “the day there are no longer 5 million but 25 million Muslims in France, they will be in charge.”
If Soti Triantafyllou is convicted by the Greek courts (which have acquitted Kostas Plevris for an unprecedented monumental anti-Semitic book…) and files an application to the ECtHR, its will be rejected on the same grounds that the two aforementioned applications Féret v. Belgium and Le Pen v. France were rejected.
Incidentally, in the ECtHR case law, one would find in Vejdeland v. Sweden that:
“54-55…. In the Court’s opinion, although these statements did not directly recommend individuals to commit hateful acts, they are serious and prejudicial allegations. Moreover, the Court reiterates that inciting to hatred does not necessarily entail a call for an act of violence, or other criminal acts. Attacks on persons committed by insulting, holding up to ridicule or slandering specific groups of the population can be sufficient for the authorities to favour combating racist speech in the face of freedom of expression exercised in an irresponsible manner (see Féret v. Belgium, 15615/07, § 73, 16 July 2009).” [emphasis added]
Anyone who claims to specialize in international law and human rights protection has to know all that and when not referring to them can be considered to be deliberately providing false and misleading “authoritative” information.
In the end of this text, we provide the statement by the only political party representing the (Turkish) Muslim minority in Thrace, which statement was not published by an media in Greece, as they all did not want the views of Greece’s Muslims to be heard. In the name of the victims of Soti Triantafyllou hatred, DEB states that:
“Mrs. Soti Triandafilu’s article, which is subject to judicial prosecution is full of utmost xenophobia… disrupts harmony within the community and fuels hatred and hostility towards those that are ‘different’… Such views which consist of ‘assault’ and ‘insult’ transcend the boundaries of freedom of expression and openly incite the people against those that are ‘different’. Did Triandafilu think of the consequences of such a writing among society considering that in our country Greece in Western Thrace for centuries Muslim Turks, which number 150 thousand, have continued their existence, and that nationwide there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims? We doubt the intellectual personality of a writer who sees no fault in defining Islam as a ‘barbarization ideology’. In this context, we also emphasize that we denounce the attacks on Panayotis Dimitras, who complained about Soti Triandafilu’s article. As a Party that fully supports freedom of expression and press freedom, taking into account the process of which our world is in, we state that acts which provoke and instill xenophobia and hatred among societies must be avoided cautiously. Disrupting harmony within society, practicing islamophobia, provoking people and holding hundreds of millions of members of a religion responsible, for terror attacks which should be condemned by everybody, cannot be disguised under ‘freedom of expression’!”
18 May 2017
In her political writings, Soti Triantafyllou styles herself as a champion of secular Enlightenment values which she sees as being under threat in Europe from intolerant outsiders and the cultural relativism of the multi-culti left. Her enemies denounce her ideas as thinly disguised racism.
Soti Triantafyllou is set to appear in court on July 21 on charges of using racist language in an article that included a quote, which she attributed to 13th-century Venetian traveler Marco Polo, that said, “The militant Muslim is the person who beheads the infidel, while the moderate Muslim holds the feet of the victim.”
The lawsuit, under Law 4285/2014, was brought by veteran human rights activist Panayote Dimitras, who heads the Greek Helsinki Monitor watchdog group and is in charge of the Racist Crimes Watch blog. In his suit, Dimitras claims that Triantafyllou could have confirmed, just by searching on the internet, that the quote is fake and was never uttered by Polo.
In addition to Triantafyllou’s article, Dimitras has allegedly reported more than 150 other texts or actions to the special prosecutor on racist crimes.
In comments made to Kathimerini English Edition, Triantafyllou described the lawsuit as “an indictment for blasphemy.” The plaintiff believes much more is at stake, but he will have a hard case to make.
Legal experts say that the author’s criticism of Islam needs to be read within the broader context of the article that led to her prosecution – and, more generally, her writings on the topic – and to be understood in light of the events that triggered her reaction.
The article, titled “Rock and Roll will Never Die,” was published in the free magazine Athens Voice in November 2015, the day after jihadi gunmen burst into the Bataclan music hall in Paris and killed 90 people during a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital.
In the same year, Triantafyllou published a book that criticized official multiculturalism for failing to successfully integrate Muslim minorities in Europe. In that book, the author attacks overzealous political correctness on the left of the ideological spectrum for smothering the debate on immigration and the threat of Islamic extremism. She has penned similar articles for several publications.
It is also important to note that the law on the basis of which Triantafyllou is being prosecuted establishes several preconditions that need to be met for its application. Specifically, it will have to be proven in court that the author acted with an intention to incite violence, hate or discrimination against Islam. Furthermore, it will have to be established that this was done in a way that endangered public order, or threatened human life and the physical integrity of individuals.
Dimitras, the man behind the lawsuit, feels Triantafyllou certainly crossed that line.
“According to international law, in the implementation of which Greece’s anti-racism law was introduced, she is not expressing an opinion but engaging in aggression threatening public order and committing incitement to hatred, which is also punishable under Greek law,” Dimitras told the newspaper.
“Freedom of expression exercised in an irresponsible manner through the use of racist speech is not protected by international law or by the Greek laws implementing the country’s international commitments,” he said.
Vassilis Tzevelekos, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Liverpool’s School of Law and Social Justice, is not convinced.
“I fail to see how Triantafyllou’s case could ever be seen as meeting these criteria. I honestly do not understand why the public prosecutor felt that she should be prosecuted,” said Tzevelekos, who specializes in international law and human rights protection.
“Hate speech laws are not designed to prosecute that type of speech,” he said.
The argument is that, regardless whether one agrees with the author on not, she targets a religion focusing on its political manifestations in the context of specific events. And these events – namely terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic militants – raise legitimate concerns as to the extent that they have cost human lives while impacting on public order, democracy and the enjoyment of fundamental human rights.
Another red flag, critics say, is that the lawsuit curtails free speech. An eventual conviction of the author, the argument goes, would amount to interference with her freedom of speech.
“The court will be expected to strike a balance between the aims pursued by Greece’s hate speech legislation and freedom of expression,” Tzevelekos said.
Critics of the law point out that the abstract wording of the Greek legislation offers no legal certainty, jeopardizes free speech and allows abuses.
“I see the prosecution against Triantafyllou as being abusive, in misalignment with the aims pursued by hate speech legislation and in conflict with her right to freely disseminate her ideas about a major political issue that concerns our democracy,” Tzevelekos said, speaking in reference to free speech and terrorism.
The prolific and outspoken Triantafyllou says that her enemies interpret the law in a way that constrains free speech which merely causes offense.
“I have time and again been disrespectful toward Islam. These days, you are not allowed to criticize Islam,” she said.
In her political writings, Triantafyllou styles herself as a champion of secular Enlightenment values which she sees as being under threat in Europe from intolerant outsiders and the cultural relativism of the multi-culti left. Her enemies denounce her ideas as thinly disguised racism.
“Muslims are presented as a humiliated and hapless minority. White knights who excel in finding victims defend them against so-called ‘racists,’” she said. “They are waging a war against freedom of speech and common sense.”
The Richter case
Triantafyllou is not the first high-profile target of the anti-racism law. Last year, a Greek court acquitted German historian Heinz Richter of charges that his 2013 book recounting the 1941 Battle of Crete denied Nazi war crimes and defamed the Cretan people.
The court ruled that the case not only lacked merit, but also that the article of the law that was cited was unconstitutional. In a rare move, the judge commented on his decision, saying that Article 2 of the anti-racism law was “incompatible with the Constitution and European law, and as such is ineffective and inapplicable.”
If the Greek court fails to protect Triantafyllou’s right to free speech, it looks like she will have a strong case against the Greek state. If she is convicted, Greek legislators and the judiciary interpreting the hate speech legislation could be found internationally liable for breaches of fundamental human rights law.
“The European Court of Human Rights has a rich case file on free speech that does not just cover information or ideas that are regarded as inoffensive, but also those that offend, shock and disturb,” Tzevelekos said.
As the case heads to court, both sides ironically claim to be fighting in defense of human rights.
Dimitras lashes out at his critics – the small but vociferous club of Greece’s liberal thinkers that have rallied in defense of the author – saying that they are simply favoring the free propagation of racist speech.
“It is they and not we who are obscurantists,” he said.
For her part, Triantafyllou responds that, in the name of stopping bigoted speech, her enemies are seeking to stop all constructive criticism.
“Race and religion are rolled into one. Blindness, social hatred, character assassination, abusive litigation culture: That’s what ‘political correctness’ ends up as,” she said. “But the disturbing truths won’t go away if we ignore them, embellish them or rename them using nice harmless euphemisms. They are here to stay until we face them.”
Statement by Panayote Dimitras to English Kathimerini
15 May 2017
In November 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRCttee) told Greece “The State party should review its legislation with a view to ensuring that all advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred is prohibited by law, and that all cases of racially motivated violence are systematically investigated, that the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished, and that appropriate compensation is awarded to the victims. The State party should take effective measures to improve the reporting of hate crimes. Furthermore, the State party should strengthen its efforts to eradicate stereotypes and discrimination against migrants, refugees and Roma, inter alia, by conducting public awareness campaigns to promote tolerance and respect for diversity.” In August 2016, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) told Greece: “The Committee urges the State party to effectively prevent, combat and punish racist hate speech and hate crimes… The Committee wishes to underline that the fundamental right of freedom of expression should not undermine the principles of dignity, tolerance, equality and non-discrimination as the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special responsibilities, among which is the obligation not to disseminate ideas on racial superiority or hatred.” In February 2015, already, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) told Greece: “The anti-terrorism discourse in the media also often targets immigrants and refugees, as well as the Muslim community in general… Islamophobia has dramatically increased since the far-right press began to link Islam to terrorism…ECRI recommends that Law 927/1979 is always applied to cases of hate speech in the media.”
Racist Crimes Watch was launched in November 2015 after the UN HRCttee recommendation to report to the authorities what we consider to be racist crimes including racist speech. It is the authorities’ responsibility to do what is necessary to implement their multiple obligations resulting from international law adhered to by Greece, including strengthening the law as these bodies asked. Soti Triantafyllou’s text as well as more than 150 other texts or actions have been reported to the specialized prosecutor on racist crimes. It is the prosecutor who chose which cases to refer to trial and on what legal grounds.
In any case, Article 1 of anti-racism Law 927/79, invoked for the trial of Soti Triantafyllou, punishes the following intentional conduct: “to publicly abet, instigate or incite, either orally or by the press or the internet or any other means, to acts or activities which may result to discrimination, hatred or violence against individuals or groups of individuals defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, in a manner which endangers public order or threatens life, liberty or physical integrity of the abovementioned persons.”
The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled: “In the Court’s opinion, although these statements did not directly recommend individuals to commit hateful acts, they are serious and prejudicial allegations. Moreover, the Court reiterates that inciting to hatred does not necessarily entail a call for an act of violence, or other criminal acts. Attacks on persons committed by insulting, holding up to ridicule or slandering specific groups of the population can be sufficient for the authorities to favour combating racist speech in the face of freedom of expression exercised in an irresponsible manner.”
Finally, the UN HRCttee has ruled: “racism did not constitute an opinion but an aggression, and that every time racism was allowed to express itself publicly, the public order was immediately and severely threatened.”
All those who consider that Soti Triantafyllou in her text makes serious and prejudicial allegations against Muslims and insults or slanders them have to understand that according to international law, in implementation of which Greece’s anti-racism law (anyway judged insufficient by the UN and the Council of Europe) was introduced, she is not expressing an opinion but engaging in an aggression threatening public order, and committing incitement to hatred, punished by Greek law too, as freedom of expression exercised in an irresponsible manner through the use of racist speech is not protected by international law and the Greek laws implementing the country’s international commitments.
All those who for the past ten days have engaged in slandering attacks against me for including Soti Triantafyllou’s text in the report to the prosecutor, who in turn chose it among so many other ones to refer to trial, are in effect –usually deliberately- opposing international law and favoring the free propagation of racist speech, many because as it emerges from their texts probably agree with it. At the same time, they do not have the honesty and the courage to direct their attacks at the prosecutor who is the sole responsible for the referral to trial.
Finally, I doubt that you will find even one of them having ever come out in favor of the freedom of expression and association of Greece’s Turks and Macedonians, systematically violated by Greece, which has been refusing to implement a dozen condemnations by the European Court of Human Rights of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Many of those attacking Greek Helsinki Monitor today in effect hate us because we are the only Greek civil society organization that has advocated the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and in the end personal dignity of these ethnic minorities.
It is they and not we who are obscurantists (in addition to being slanderers).
Spokesperson of Greek Helsinki Monitor
Member of the Executive Board of the European Humanist Federation
PS. The most thorough analysis in Greek is available here: Βασίλη Σωτηρόπουλου «Τιμωρείται ο σκέτος μισαλλόδοξος λόγος από τον αντιρατσιστικό νόμο;»
PRESS RELEASE: Xenophobia and anti-Islamism cannot be disguised with a ‘Freedom of Expression’ 29.05.2017
We are observing with interest and concern, the developments following journalist Soti Traindafillu’s article which initiated an investigation by the Attorney against Racism.
Subsequent to Soti Triandafilu’s article of extreme anti- Islamism and Islamophobia, ‘Racist Crimes Watch’ Board Member and Greek Helsinki Monitor Spokesperson Panayotis Dimitras launched an official complaint against Triandafilu, the case will be heard on 21st July 2017.
With the court date set, social media and media was occupied with comments against Panayotis Dimitras, who had complained to the Racist Crimes Watch about Triandafilu’s article and comments which supposedly defends freedom of expression.
As the FEP Party, we would firstly like to state that, regardless of reason, we disapprove and do not justify any sort of extremism or terror attacks which threatens the safety of innocent people and their right to live. Terror has always been the greatest enemy of mankind. As the FEP Party, like always we once again condemn strongly not only the attacks in Paris, but all terror attacks which are attempted towards the lives of innocent people.
We would regrettably like to emphasize, that Mrs. Soti Triandafilu’s article, which is subject to judicial prosecution is full of utmost xenophobia. As the FEP Party we would like to express that we object to movements, as such, which disrupts harmony within the community and fuels hatred and hostility towards those that are ‘different.’
‘Fanatic Muslims are those who will behead you, where as moderate Muslims will aid this,’ ‘Islam is not a religion like other religion, it is a political program, an ideology of barbarization,’ ‘our sufferings from Islam (not only terrorism, but daily acts of repression and hate) is a subject not of ‘interventions’ from Western countries in Eastern countries but of Islam’s pro-war nature’.
The above mentioned expressions used in Soti Triandafilu’s article are examples which display extreme Islamic antagonism. Such views which consist of ‘assault’ and ‘insult’ transcend the boundaries of freedom of expression and openly incite the people against those that are ‘different’. Did Triandafilu think of the consequences of such a writing among society considering that in our country Greece in Western Thrace for centuries Muslim Turks, which number 150 thousand, have continued their existence, and that nationwide there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims.
We doubt the intellectual personality of a writer who sees no fault in defines Islam as a ‘barbarization ideology’. In this context, we also emphasize that we denounce the attacks on Panayotis Dimitras, who complained about Soti Triandafilu’s article.
As a Party that fully supports freedom of expression and press freedom, taking into account the process of which our world is in, we state that acts which provoke and instil xenophobia and hatred among societies must be avoided cautiously.
Disrupting harmony within society, practicing islamophobia, provoking people and holding hundreds of millions of members of a religion responsible, for terror attacks which should be condemned by everybody, cannot be disguised under ‘freedom of expression’!
As the FEP Party, we state that we closely follow the judicial process in this regard, and once more express that we condemn all acts which are in opposition to a tolerant and peaceful understanding of a harmonious life.