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Plevris` acquittal signals that authorities in Greece fail to take firm action to curb racism

17 April 2009

Minority Rights Group International on Thursday expressed concern that the inconsistent implementation of laws against inciting racial hatred in Greece may result in targeted attacks against Jews and increased anti-semitic sentiments in the country.

The comments from the London based human rights organisation follow a recent Greek Appeals Court decision to overturn a 2007 conviction and acquit Kostas Plevris -author of the book "Jews – The whole truth" – from charges of inciting racial hatred. MRG says the decision signals the authorities' failure to restrain signs of racism and put an end to the promotion of Nazi ideology.

MRG says the Appeals Court decision points to clear inconsistency in implementing Greek anti-racism law, on the basis of which Plevris was found guilty in 2007. The December 2007 court ruling convicted the author- who denies the Holocaust and promotes the Nazi ideology in his writing- of inciting racial hatred through his book and sentenced him to 14 month suspended imprisonment. Plevris filed an appeal and the March 27 2009 the Appeals Court found him not guilty.

According to MRG a spate of recent attacks against Jewish religious and historical sites including synagogues in Volos and Corfu, the Holocaust monument in Corfu and the Jewish cemetery in Athens and Ioannina could result in feelings of intimidation amongst the Jewish community. After the desecration of Volos synagogue on 1 January 2009 for example, religious services had to be cancelled. The community was also been put in a vulnerable position by the anti-semitic statements of extreme right-wing party leader George Karatzaferi during the attacks on Gaza.

Following her September 2008 visit the UN Independent Expert on minority issues Gay McDougall raised concern that according to Jewish representatives anti-semitic views continue to be expressed in the extreme right wing press, in mainstream newspapers and also by public figures. The acquittal of Plevris does not support government statement in the report about the success of positive measures to confront anti-Semitism, MRG says.

Minority Rights Group International calls for the Greek authorities to condemn and punish all forms of racist manifestations by consistently implementing laws against incitement of racial hatred and to give clear signals that religious and racial harassment are unacceptable. MRG also call on the Greek authorities to fulfil their international legal obligations such as the provisions of Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which clearly prohibits inciting racial or religious hatred.