Source: Greek Helsinki Monitor
Minority Language Activist, Bletsas
Found Not Guilty in Historic Court Decision
Brussels, December 18, 2001
by Johan Haggman
"I'm of course very happy and relieved" Aroumanian language activist Sotiris Bletsas told Eurolang after the verdict. Domenico Morelli, representing the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages in the Bletsas case, says that this is a great victory for minority languages in Greece. "A Greek court has recognised for the first time that these minority languages are spoken in Greece" Morelli tells Eurolang.
Last winter the Greek minority language activist Sotiris Bletsas was wrongly charged for spreading "false information on minority languages in Greece". Bletsas had been handing out brochures published by the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages in Brussels.
He was also accused of causing disorder in the small greek town Nausa by claiming that the minority languages Aroumanian, Pomak, Slav-Macedonian, Albanian and Turkish (all recognised by the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages) were spoken in Greece.
He received a 15 months suspended jail sentence by a court in Athens on the 2nd of February this year. Today justice was done as the Court of Appeal in Athens found Sotiris Bletsas not guilty on all charges.
Bletsas tells Eurolang that "I was especially pleased to here the District Attorney say that I had to be acquitted because these languages are spoken in Greece and they do not cause any harm or problem".
Bojan Brezigar, the president of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL), states that "We are extremely delighted to here that Mr Bletsas has been acquitted".
Brezigar extended his gratitude and expressed his acknowledgement of the excellent work done by Bletsas' lawyers, by the chairman of the Greek Helsinki Monitor Panayote Dimitras and by the president of the Italian Member State Committee Domenico Morelli.
Morelli expressed his satisfaction with the large media coverage the case had received and the huge support and backing they got from several Greek politicians and MPs.
In his defense of Sotiris Bletsas, Morelli referred to the Kililea report by the European Parliament and the Euromosaic study.
"A problem is that some Greeks do not distinguish between cultural and national issues" Morelli adds.
Both Brezigar and Morelli stress that there is now real hope for an EBLUL representation in Greece as well.
It is needless to say that Bletsas' mother tongue is Aroumanian or Vlach, a language spoken by approximately 40 000 persons in his region in northern Greece. He promises to keep on fighting for the rights of Aroumanians and other linguistic minorities in Greece in the future.
"It would be a real shame if I wouldn't, I owe it to my language and my community".
Bletsas has devoted most of his life to the promotion and the protection of the lesser used languages in Greece. He tells a story how he was brought up in Aroumanian and how he suffered as a child for not speaking Greek fluently.
"I failed the first year in elementary school and had to do it all over again because I couldn't express myself in Greek" Bletsas says.
Bletsas concludes saying that this was a victory for the Aroumanian community. "We're strong, we've built many of the important buildings in this country, including the court house where I was sentenced in February" he adds jokingly.