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COURT TRANSCRIPT OF THE BLETSAS CASE
Trial took place on February 2, 2001
Transcript Released June 2001
Source: Greek Helisnki Monitor

Review:

In July 1995, Mr. Bletsas, a Greek of Vlach descent, distributed a publication from the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages. The flyer mentioned minority languages in Greece, including: (Aromanian, Arvanite, Macedonian, Pomak, Turkish).

The official Greek position on minorities is that they do not exist and, therefore, they cannot be recognized or possess any rights. The state makes every effort to intimidate rights activists in order to silence any exposure and criticism of this policy.

For merely distributing a flyer mentioning minority languages the Greek courts sentenced Mr. Bletsas to fifteen months in prison and fined him 500,000 drs. His case has been ongoing since 1995.

With this kind of oppressive judicial procedure Greek authorities attempt to frighten minority activists and force them to abandon their efforts to gain formal recognition and rights. This institutionalized harassment and intimidation, coupled with an aggressive policy of assimilation has been systematically applied for decades with the aim of forcing all inhabitants of Greece to self-describe as "ethnic Greeks."

It is alarming to what extent the European Union tolerates Greece's persecution of its minorities.

For more background information click here


Transcript of Mr. Bletsas' Trial

ATHENS COURT OF THE FIRST INSTANCE

Decision No 11263/20001

THE THREE-MEMBER MISDEMEANORS COURT OF ATHENS

Consisted of a) the Judge of the First Instance Court, Zoe Kostojianni – President of the Court of the First Instance

b) The Misdemeanors Judge Maria Ralli-Katrivanou

c) The Misdemeanors Judge Stamata Petsali

d) The Public Prosecutor of the Court of First Instance Nikolaos Seintis

Held an open court session on February 2, 2001, with the collaboration of Theanitsa Ioannou –Secretary

In order to judge the case:

Of the defendant Sotiri Bletsa, a resident of Athens (Vas. Herakleiou 22), who was present in court, and compiled the following records of the court:

During today's open court sitting the President of the Court announced the name of the defendant who, after he appeared and was asked by the President about his identity etc., replied that his name is as it is inscribed above and that he is appointing as his counsel the lawyer Mr. Lambro Baltsioti, who was present in court (Registration No 19690/Athens Bar Association).

The President of the Court advised the defendant to attend to the indictment against him and to the deliberations that were going to be conducted.

Simultaneously she informed him that he had the right to object, to give a full account of his pleadings and to submit his objections at the end of the examination of every witness and during the investigation of any probative evidence.

The public prosecutor, when he took the podium, brought the charge with a-concise accuracy and added in support of the indictment that he had summoned witnesses for the prosecution, whose names were listed below the indictment. The president of the court called out their names. They were found present in court. Then the President asked the defendant to provide a general account of the action for which he was accused and simultaneously she informed him that his defense would take place after the completion of the probative proceedings.

The defendant provided the information requested of him and declared that he had summoned as defense witnesses Mr. Gregorio Ontria and Ms Alexandra Ioannidou.

The President called the names of the witnesses for the prosecution and for the defense that had been summoned and they were present.

Afterwards, when all other witnesses had left the courtroom, in accordance with the provision of Article 350 of the Penal Code, the first witness for the prosecution remained and responded to the relevant questions addressed to him by the President. He replied that his name is Eugenios Haitidis, [he is the son] of Demetrios and Olga, he was born in Serres and still resides there at 25 Merarchias Street. He is 58 yeas old, a civil engineer, and a Christian Orthodox Greek citizen. He also said that he is merely acquainted with the defendant and that he was not related to him.

Consequently he swore, in accordance with the provision of Article 218 of the Penal Code, on the Holy Book and under investigation he testified:

"I am an MP for the prefecture of Serres, a civil engineer. I became acquainted with the defendant in Naousa, on July 1, 1995. Yearly the Pan-Hellenic Union of Vlach Cultural Associations holds an event, the dance of the Greek Vlachs. The Union invited me [to this dance]. The "meeting of the Vlachs" was about the traditions of the Vlachs. They have certain manners and customs that do not take anything away from their characteristic of being Greek. At some point, I heard a fuss. I saw the heads of the Union quarrelling with Mr. Bletsa. Mr. Bletsa was distributing a specific leaflet entitled "The Lesser Used Languages of the European Union". He had a bag full of leaflets. The defendant was distributing this leaflet. He was trying (addressing himself to the Vlachs, who participate in these types of events, to persuade them that: "You constitute a Vlach minority and that you must claim your rights and I have come to inform you" These phrases were uttered before the disturbance started. They said to him: "What is that you are saying"? The leaflet was issued by a non-governmental organization. In an attempt to give validity and legitimacy to this publication he said that the «Bureau of the Lesser Used Languages of Europe» issued it. He insistently continued saying to the Vlach bystanders: "You constitute a Vlach minority and you must claim your rights". Many languages were mentioned; Romanian with red color, Turkish, Bulgarian (i.e., that in Greece these languages are spoken). They are referenced in this leaflet. The defendant was interested in and mentioned the Vlachian language by word of mouth. There was also mentioned that in Europe in certain regions besides the official languages other languages are spoken too. He had a map. There exists confusion between languages and idioms. The defendant refers to the Vlachian language. A deliberate mix up is created between Aroumanian language and Romanian. A systematic effort is made to present this issue as if it is about Romanian-Vlachs and not Greek–Vlachs. That is why scholarships are offered. He was trying to proselytize them. The defendant has made statements in the newspaper "Elefterotypia" about the real existence of these languages and [how the minorities speaking them] must co-operate so as to be able to claim their rights in Greece, [presumably] because in Greece they are persecuted. It refers to the Slavo-Macedonian language, which is how he characterizes Makedonski, Turkish, and Arvanitika (Arberichte). These languages are not spoken in Greece. Some isolated individuals speak them. There are no individuals [groups] who consciously speak them. I have nothing personal to gain or any other purpose [in saying this]. They are trying to provide a picture of Greece as a mosaic. This is my anxiety. In the leaflet distributed by the defendant is mentioned that in Greece there are 5 languages spoken. Organized groups do not speak [these languages]. I am a refugee. Half of the Greeks speak English, but that does not make them a minority. Every one who speaks a foreign language does not constitute a minority. Minority, as an organized group, is something different. There is a difference between idioms and languages. Idiom is the Cretan or Cypriot [way of speaking]. But on the whole [such an idiom] it is still the Greek language. It is false with the meaning assigned to it by the defendant. These are not spoken languages. They are idioms. The accusation is restricted to the Vlachs. It is false to say that there is a Vlachian language when it is an idiom. Some people in the region of Thrace speak the Turkish language. In Greece, except the Greek language English is spoken and certain dialects-variations of Greek language. It is not that they are recognized. There are other publications as well. Inside political formations there are organizations in which the defendant participates. This has seriously preoccupied the parliament and the media. All official Vlach organizations condemn the defendant. The defendant's Organization serves other purposes. Already trouble has been created and the police have intervened. [The people he was speaking to] objected and replied: "We are Greeks, we have our ways of living". The defendant was still trying to persuade them that they were a minority. The Vlachs are, like the Sarakatsanae or the Thracian etc. These groups have created a distinctive way of life. The Vlachs were employed as guards in Engatia Avenue. They created a history out of the place they lived. They never stopped being Greeks. Their Associations prove this. The Vlachs were dispersed all over the Balkans. In Koritsa were 2500 Vlachs. They are in Skopia and in Albania. They are Greeks who have been dispersed in different places. The Greeks of the Black Sea are not less Greek. There are several non-governmental organizations in Europe, which sometimes appear as if they have philanthropic aims. If they had noble aspirations they would have been interested in all minorities. In an interview given on February 9, 1997, [the defendant] said that it was a mistake that we did not joint forces with the Turks, the Pomaks, and he comes from Trikala. I do not know him. I saw him there and here in court. The festival takes place all over Greece. It includes all the recognized [Vlach] societies. I do not know if the same person or others repeated [this type of trouble] in the past. I know that there are several people who collaborate with or are directed by [someone] to try to portray Greece as a mosaic. They acknowledge that there are several languages. The European Union does not recognize Aroumanian. There is a difference between Romanian and Aroumanian. In the leaflet they speak about Romance Language (Romanian Languages). I am not aware of any statement Mr. Karamanlis made. I do not know if there are any announcements. I have not done specific studies in linguistics. I have studied the grammar of Koutsovlachian, I do not know [the language]. The "Rainbow" spoke of the existence of the Macedonians. My grandparents spoke Turkish but they were Greeks. That did not make them a linguistic minority. I do not know a word in Turkish. They never taught me. I visited the town of Orini in Serres. There they speak a local Greek idiom. I communicated with them in Greek. The defendant has signed an affidavit regarding this matter.

Next another prosecution witness came in and when he was asked by the President of the Court about his identity he replied that his name is Georgios Makris, of Constantine, he was born in Mikropoli Dramas, he is 47 years old and resides in Prosotsani Drama's, a high school teacher and a Christian Orthodox. He also testified that he is merely acquainted with the defendant and that he was not related to him or with the injured party. Following, the witness swore on the Holy Book in accordance with Article 218 of the Penal Code and under examination he testified:

"I am the Mayor of Drama. I was General Secretary of the Pan-Hellenic Union of Vlach Cultural Associations. On July 1, 1995 the event "meeting [of the Vlachs]" took place in Naousa. I was the organizer of the event and the person responsible for making it happen. I met the defendant. In the program a visit to the Town Hall was scheduled. All the associations lined up. At the scheduled meeting time for the visit to the Town Hall we observed a disturbance. A young person came and told me that somebody was distributing certain leaflets in English and that he saw that it [the publication] referred to certain languages in Greece, it was written in the English language. He pointed out to us who had given him this publication. He was Mr. Bletsa. He had a package. We did not see him distributing. The dancer pointed him out to us. We reproved him saying: "What are you doing here?" His reply was: "We have a democracy and we can do what we want." We said: "We have a democratic right to distribute leaflets but [you should] not [do it] in our event". We are trying to keep what we believe to ourselves. He was aware of the positions of the Pan-Hellenic Union of Vlach Cultural Associations. We have our own traditions. They are identical to Greek ways of living. Mr. Bletsas was President of the Aroumanian Cultural [Association]. They did not even bring us their Articles of Association. Their positions were different from ours. He did not deny the fact that he distributed them. [The publication] mentioned that besides Greek, the Macedonian, Bulgarian, Aromanian, Arvanitika (Arberichte) and Turkish languages are spoken. I do not know if the Pomanian is a language or an idiom. Aromanian is an idiom. I do not know if the Turkish language is spoken. In my region it is not spoken. The spreading of fallacious information in an event such as this, in the form of diffused propaganda as to the culture, was aimed at creating a disturbance, trouble. They were ready to lynch him. The question is why was he distributing them. It amounts to that he was coming to dispute what we believe. We do not accept his views. He generated indignation. Most people are aware that there are no minorities. These types of publications though could create the impression to people who have not dealt with these issues that there really exist minority problems (confusion). I believe he was aware of this. I think the defendant is of the Polytechnic. All contacts I had [with him] were here in court. In the 1st court he gave the impression that he did not know. Later he changed his mind. He is aware of the facts. The Aroumanian language does not have any relation to the Romanian [language]. And in the Vlachian "Vlach" means "Romie" [Greek]. They call "Vlachs" all those who had the Latin. It is spoken and it was always spoken at home. In the family, among each other, they spoke this idiom. Not outside. There was never inclination for the creation of Vlachian schools. In accordance with the Bucharest Treaty of 1913, it was recognized. The defendant was distributing the publication. He must have had 2 to 3 more individuals [helping him]. We spoke to the particular individual. We told him that this was not an acceptable way of acting and that he should leave. It was the first time I ascertained this fact. It did not change my belief. It generated indignation. It disturbed public order. It did not produce the feeling that they are not Greeks. I speak Vlachian. The Vlachs speak Greek and Vlachian. The songs are in Vlachian. It does not pose a problem. I have heard in the past talk about other languages. Nobody creates any problem or second class citizens. If he wants to protect the Arvanitika (Arberichte) he should organize an event. In these meetings they speak Vlachian. I know Mr. Katsani. The Koutsovlachian language was taught at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki. There is a difference between registering it scientifically and presenting it the way they do. Mr. Katsanis knows Vlachian. They pointed the defendant out to me and I saw him holding the leaflets".

Lastly, another prosecution witness was called and when the President of the Court asked him about his identity he replied that his name is Ioannis Zaparas of Eyaggelos, he was born in Serres, 58 years of age. He resides in Serres at 9 Papafotiou Street; he is an employee of the Greek Telecommunication Corporation (OTE) and a Christian Orthodox. He too declared that he is merely acquainted with the defendant and that he is not related to him or to the injured party. Then, the witness swore on the Holy Book in accordance with Article 218 of the Penal Code and under examination he testified:

"I am an employee of the Greek Telecommunications Corporation. I am involved in deliveries. On July 1, 1995 I took part in the meeting of Vlachs. I know the defendant by sight. I met him there. The youngsters of my association had gathered there waiting for the event to begin. They told me that the leaflet refers to Romanian languages and that this is something that should concerns us. It must have been written in English. I saw the publication. The youngsters were outraged about what they read about the Romanian language. There is propaganda that, all the Vlachs in Greece constitute a Romanian minority, while the Vlachs are Greeks. I don't think that there can be found people who are more Greeks than the Vlachs. Bulgarian and Turkish are spoken in Greece. In some villages of Thrace people speak Turkish. I do not know if they speak it as a language or an idiom. They speak Bulgarian alongside Greek. I do not know if it is a language or an idiom. In the mountainous areas of Thessaly, Epirus and of Pindos, they do not speak the Romanian language. A Vlachian idiom is spoken and not the Romanian as a language. From what I have heard, in some areas they speak Arvanitika (Arberichte). I do not know if it is a language or an idiom. ?? people who are knowledgeable about these issues it does not pose a problem. [To them] they could not create the impression [that this is] about minorities. The Vlachs are aware that they are do not constitute a minority. I did not see the defendant distributing the leaflets. I saw him holding the leaflets. I do not know how many they were. [The publication] generated the indignation of the people attending the event because of what it said about the Vlachs. They were not true. It marked the areas of Greece where people speak other languages besides Greek. [The publication] could not create doubt about their beliefs. I do not know what was the goal of the defendant. He generated anxiety for the young people. The young persons know where they are. They wondered. I discussed it with them. It created some trouble. It could not create a problem for politics abroad. I speak Vlachian. I do not know if the Municipalities of Salamina distributed it".

Next another prosecution witness was called for and after he was asked by the President of the Court about his identity, he replied that his name is Anastasios Kotsopoulos, born in Athens in 1965 and resides in Vrilisia at 23 Botsari Road, a journalist by profession and a Christian Orthodox. He too declared that he is merely acquainted with the defendant and that he is not related to him or to the injured party. Following the witness swore on the Holy Book in accordance with Article 218 of the Penal Code and under examination testified:

"I am a journalist for the newspaper "Eleftherotypia" I met the defendant in 1997. We got an interview from him. I had read about the meeting. I was not at the event. It happened in 1995.The defendant was a representative of the Office for the

Lesser-Used Languages. It was founded with a decision of the European Parliament in 1982. It is officially funded. It is not false to say that Turkish is spoken in the area of Evros of Western Thrace. It is a language. Also in Western Thrace Bulgarian is spoken. Pomaks told me. I have a document from Archives of the Ministry of External Affairs. There is the census of 1920. The residents there used the Turkish language. In many areas of the Macedonian region, in the prefecture of Florina, Slavo-Macedonian language is spoken. Statements made by Mr. Paggalos exist from the time this issue was raised as a Slavo-Macedonian language. It has been registered in the 1920's census. It is referred in the letters of P. Melas. The use of this term does not constitute an offense. In the mountainous areas of Thessaly, Epirus and Pindos evidently Romanian language is spoken. I have heard it spoken in Metsovo and I asked. I have an article and an interview of Mr. Kilipiri where he mentions that: "I use the term Armanos and not Vlach, because this term is more accurate since we call ourselves Armanous. As far as its relation to Romanian language goes are thought to be relatives. The Koutsovlachian is a distinct Romanian language. I have heard it spoken in the prefecture of Florina, at Nymfaio in the station. There is a book with a preface by the President of Democracy entitled " Studies about the Vlachs"- "The Metropoles and the Diaspora of Vlachs" where it is referenced as a language. An idiom is a dialect of a certain language. The degree that we speak a language does not bring into question Hellenic civilization. There are issues regarding Western Thrace. A minority problem does not exist. There are issues that are linked to minorities. I cannot judge the consciousness of any human being. I read certain publications. I do not have a personal view. There was a publication regarding an incident that happened, I don't remember exactly its subject matter. There was a series of publications about the existence of the Office. In 1997 we made a report, a small piece was written. I do not remember exactly what the particular piece said. I have been involved with issues such as these since 1990. In 1997, with the opportunity provided by the publication of "Nea" positive we searched for the defendant purely out of journalistic interest. The defendant told us that he gave the paper to the Presiding Board of the Vlachs and they objected. The publication talks about linguistic groups. I am not aware of the defendant's statement. Everyone has every right as long as he does not violate the laws. I do not remember his official capacity. I think he is an engineer. The defendant was speaking with someone in Vlachian. Here in the Court. As a journalist, the only picture that I had was positive, the one I saw on the Mega television, in the Tzima program".

In closing, another prosecution witness was called and when he was asked by the President of the Court about his identity, he replied that his name is Demetrios Psaras, he was born in Athens in 1953 and resides in N. Cosmos, at 10-16 Minoa Road, a journalist by profession and a Christian Orthodox. He too declared that he is merely acquainted with the defendant and that he is not related to him or to the injured party. Then, he swore on the Holy Book in accordance with Article 218 of the Penal Code and under examination he testified:

"I know the defendant. I met him in my capacity as a journalist. I am a journalist for the newspaper "Eleftherotypia". In 1997, with the opportunity provided by the publication, I met the defendant in his capacity as a representative of the Greek branch of the "Bureau of the Lesser Used languages in The European Union". He had a publication and this is how this case started. What has been inscribed in it is true. I ascertain this from the reliability of its author. The Council is official, financed by the European Parliament. The publications are verified by the European Parliament. There is the 1994 voted resolution concerning the linguistic and cultural minorities. In the area of Evros the Turkish language is spoken as a language and the Greek State officially teaches it. The Pomanian is a dialect. I know about the Pomaks from my visit. It is true. The Aromanian or Armanesti, are the Vlachian. In the sense that it constitutes a distinctive linguistic morpheme it is a language. Arvanitiki (Arberichte) is a dialect of the Albanian language. I don't know if the people who speak it have a Greek consciousness. The defendant gave a leaflet. I was not present. I did not find out later. Other press-publications followed. There cannot be a problem with an information leaflet of the European Union. I am aware that Mr. Haitidis and perhaps a journalist objected. Language and national consciousness are two different things. There are minority problems. All people who live in Greece are aware of the existence of these languages. They have been voted. There is a difference between language and idiom".

At this point, after a motion by the Prosecutor and an order by President of the Court the following documents were read:

1) The announcement of the Committee of the European Communities on the subject: "The Lesser Used Languages of the European Union".

2) The forwarding document of Mr. Demetrios Tsaktani, President of the "Union of Vlach Scientists", addressed to Mr. Eugene Haitidis, dated August 4, 2000.

3) The Press Release dated August 3, 2000.

4) The letter of the "Pan-Hellenic Union of Vlach Cultural Associations" addressed to the newspaper "Eleftherotypia", dated February 15, 1997.

5) The ref. no 32/23-6-2000 letter of the "Union of Vlach Scientists" addressed to Mr. Eugene Haitidis.

6) The program of «????» (Center for Research of Minority Groups) entitled "Greece and the European Map for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe", dated June 28, 2000.

7) The letter of " PAN-HELLENIC UNION OF VLACH CULTURAL ASSOCIATIONS", addressed to the newspaper "Eleftherotypia", dated November 15, 1995.

8) Photocopy of the Grammar of common Koutsovlachian [language] by N. Katsani & K. Dina, 1990 edition, page 17.

9) The signed declaration of the defendant, dated May 17, 1999.

10) Excerpts from the book "Minorities in Greece and the Political World" release January 1992.

11) Excerpts from the book "STUDIES FOR THE VLACHS VOLUME B' – The Metropoles and the Diaspora of Vlachs, by Asterio T. KOUKOUDI.

12) Statements of Mr. Paggalos, Minister of External Affairs, by the Communications Department of the Ministry of External Affairs, dated, December 23, 1998.

13) The Articles of Associations of the "SOCIETY OF AROMANIAN (VLACHIAN) CULTURE" dated June 9 1988.

14) The declaration of the President of the European Office for the Lesser Used Languages, addressed to every competent Court of the Greek Democratic State, dated February 14,2000, accurately translated by the lawyer Mr. Lambro Mich. Baltsioti.

15) The Ministry of Culture document, addressed to the "Society of Aromanian (Vlachian) Culture, dated February 3, 1995 (Ref. No.6668).

16) Photocopy of the Book "PAYLOS MELAS" by Natalia P. Mela.

17) Excerpt from the February 9, 1997 "Eleftherotypia" entitled "Dialogue in 45 languages" (The Sunday Virus).

18) Photocopy of the August 22, 1994 Newspaper "Ta Nea", pages 13, 14 & 15).

19) Photocopy of the January 23, 1997 from the Newspaper "Ta Nea.

20) Photocopy of the May 1996 Cultural Review of the "Rainbow".

21) Photocopy of the February 9, 1994 Official Gazette of the European Community for the Linguistic and Cultural Minorities.

22) The interview of Mr. Fotis Kilipiri, President of the Pan-Hellenic Union of Vlach Cultural Associations given to Armanika Chrinika.

23) Data from the December 19, 1920 and January 1, 1921 census of Western Thrace.

24) The census of the Greek population of December 19, 1920 for Thessaly and Arta (about the language of the Prefecture of Trikala).

Afterwards another witness for the defense was called and when the President of the Court asked him about his identity, he replied that his name is Gregorios Ontrias, of Christos and Paraskevi, born in Athens in 1931, and resides in Voula, at 11 Kolokotroni Street. He is an anesthesiologist by profession (Identity Card No.L959784/82 of Kalamata Police Station) and a Christian Orthodox. He too declared that he is merely acquainted with the defendant and that he is not related to him or to the injured party. Following the witness swore on the Holy Book in accordance with Article 218 of the Penal Code and under examination he testified:

"The defendant and myself are compatriots from Trikala Thessalias. I was present. I saw that he had a single paper written in English. I do not know the contents of this paper. I did not read it. The point is, something happened with Mr. Kilipiri. An hour later they appeared and arrested him. I was in the Society's area. I don't know how many members were in the Society. We were 5-6 people from my Society in the square. The publication was not distributed anywhere. Mr. Bletsas gave it to Mr. Kilipiri. The space was open. The youngsters were dressed in costumes. The Society was subsidized only one time. The Vlachs are Greek citizens. I speak the Vlachian language".

Finally, another defense witness was called and after the President of the Court asked her about her identity, she replied that her name is Alexandra Ioannidou of Demetrios, born in Athens in 1966 and resides in Varibobi (Identity card No.M289620/81), a linguist by profession, and a Christian Orthodox. She too declared that she is merely acquainted with the defendant and that she is not related to him or to the injured party. Then, the witness swore in the Holy Book in accordance with article 218 of the Penal Code and under examination she testified:

"I know the defendant. He is well known. I met him here. I am a linguist. My view is that it [publication] cannot be characterized as false. The Turkish that is spoken in the area of Evros is language. I know this fact from the existing research. Whatever is used for communication is language. Slavian language exists. It would be a mistake to give a characterization. It is a political position and political responsibility. In the region of N. Greece, it is true that many people as language speak Makedonski. I have dealt with this issue, I have written that in the areas of Western Greece, of Peloponnese and of Euboea, Arvanitika (Arberichte) is spoken. It has Albanian roots. Sometimes [the language people speak] is related to the consciousness of the speakers, other times it is not. To a higher percentage it is not. I do not know the defendant's positions. Every language has variations. Language is a much larger notion than an idiom. The Romance Language is a distinct language. There is a group of languages. The Ministry of External Affairs employed me as a language expert for (2) two years. Language does not coincide with national consciousness. I have not heard that it can create confusion".

The President of the Court called the defendant to give his statement. He denied the charge attributed to him and maintained that:

"I was not distributing any leaflets. I gave a copy to the President [of the Pan-Hellenic Union of Vlach Cultural Associations]. Where are the rest? Why didn't the police seize them? How many, among the Vlachs, know English? Why didn't I translate it? I only handed it to the President. He has defamed me. The activist of the Vlachs is persecuted. In English is it possible to create anxiety? He found a sacrificial victim, me, who supposedly create conspiracies networks against the Greek people. Nobody is more Greek than I am. How is it possible that I am considered to be anti-Greek or a hater of Greece? I never distributed leaflets, not even as a university student, let alone now that I am an acclaimed scientist. I am proud that I am Vlach. We developed Greece. And now I should be falsely accused of distributing leaflets? I was born Vlach. I am not a criminal, judge me. I am proud that I am Greek. I was at the celebration. There was no disturbance. I was in the area of the Society. At some point, the members of the Association of Verroia began a discussion with Mr. Kilipiri, that is, in all the days of the festival no Vlachian song was heard. Many people joined the discussion. I entered it too. Mr. Kilipiris left and (3) three hours later, while I was watching the show of the dancing groups, in the area of the square, I found myself being surrounded by the police and Mr. Haitidis. They told me to go to the police station for questioning. Next many people had gathered and said: "Freedom to Bletsa". There they were pushed. A violent incident took place. Who denied my Greekness? Mr. Haitidis demanded that I declare that I am proud to be Vlach. I came and saw signs of support. The incident was extremely exaggerated. I said that there must have been a misunderstanding. I did not give an interview anywhere. I went to my office and somebody telephoned me and said that: "Mr. Haitidis stated that you and I have formed a kind of a Society of Friends [Filiki Heteria] for the purpose of establishing an independent State". He asked me to declare that I do not know him. On the Macedonia TV station, I saw in rerun that I had distributed leaflets and that I declared in writing that I had repented that I had set up a kind of a Society of Friends. I became enraged. Then many news agencies began to contact me. I agreed to speak only to "Eleftherotypia" and I explained how things were. I have never been engaged in Greek propaganda. Many people know me including the Mayor and others. In the police station I gave a deposition. On the spot, in the police station, after the deposition I think, I signed the declaration. There are (2) two signed declarations. I did not rebut anything. In 1995 I signed a declaration. I did it in order to diffuse the atmosphere because the Vlachs had come and complained about Mr. Haitidis. I only had a single publication. Whatever I know about the Vlachs I know about the Arvanites [Albanians]. My grandmother did not know Greek and I had to repeat grade A' of public school because I didn't know Greek. This publication was send to me from the "Bureau of the Lesser Used Languages of Europe" through the mail. I am not a representative. "Eleftherotypia" contacted the Office and they referred to me. There is no representative. I do not know if there are minority problems. It has been said that there are problems with the Turks. It has never been heard for the Vlachs to create trouble. It was the first time that I went. This publication has been send to all the Vlachs. I did not think it could create a problem I went to the Pan-Hellenic meeting. I had it and I handed it to the President, obviously meaning well. A group of us went. The office sends invitations to many people. It notified others as well. The only time I went to Brussels was in February of 1995. Afterwards I went one more time. From the first moment of my arrest I stated that I am proud that I am Greek".

Furthermore the President of the Court asked the Public Prosecutor and the litigants if they needed to carry out any additional examination or to clarify any piece of evidence and after she received a negative answer she declared the probative proceedings closed.

The Public Prosecutor to whom the word was given, after he developed the indictment proposed that the defendant be found guilty in accordance with the indictment. The defense counsel when he took the podium developed the defense position and asked for the acquittal of his client. The President of the Court asked the defendant if he had anything to add for his defense and he replied negatively.

Consequently the President of the Court declared the end of the deliberations.

Then, the Court in a closed-door session in the presence of its secretary, formulated and the President made public in the open court session the ref. no 11263/2001 decision, which is as follows:

THOUGHT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW

From the primary testimonial proceedings and the documents that were read to the audience during the hearing of the case, as well as from the testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution and for the defense, who were lawfully examined in open court, in combination with the testimony of the defendant and the overall discussion of the case, the following were proved:

In Naousa, On July 1, 1995 during a cultural event of the Vlachs, more specifically, during the festivities of the 12th Pan-Hellenic Meeting of Vlachs, at approximately 20:30, in front of the Town Hall, the defendant distributed a leaflet to the people attending. It was written in English, and had been transmitted by the "European Bureau of the Lesser Used Languages". The Office in question is an independent organization. The Board of Governors of the Office consists of representatives from ten committees from the member states. Such a committee does not exist in Greece. (See the announcement of the Committee of the European Communities on the subject: "The Lesser Used Languages of the European Union"). In the mid 1990s, a representative of the aforementioned office contacted the defendant, whom they thought could represent his linguistic community to the Office. (See the letter-declaration of the President of the European Office for the Lesser Used Languages, addressed to every competent Court of the Greek Democratic State, dated February 14,2000). And in February 1995, as the defendant himself stated in his testimony, and at another time, which he did not specify, he went to Brussels where the Office with the name "Information Center of Brussels" is located.

It was further proved that the defendant in the past had been involved in the setting up of a society called "Society of Aromanian (Vlachian) Culture" and that he was its President. At about the year 1991 he requested to become a member of the Pan-Hellenic Union of Vlach Cultural Associations, which is the tertiary organ which represents the all Vlach cultural associations in Greece and the organizer of the aforementioned cultural activities. (See the February 15, 1995 letter of the report addressed to the newspaper Eleftherotypia and the testimony of the examined witness Georgios Makris). His attempt was not successful. The positions of the defendant were different. And the representatives of the Union do not accept his views. (See the testimony of the same aforementioned witness).

In the leaflet which, as has already been mentioned, the defendant distributed, was included the European Map of the Regional or Minority Languages, which was approved in 1995 by the Council of Europe and took the form of a European Agreement. (See the February 9, 1991 entry in the Official Gazette of the European Communities). In this publication it was also mentioned that in Greece Greek is the official language. There are six lesser used or regional languages. 1) Arvanitiki (Arberichte) which is spoken in many regions all over the country. 2) Romanian (Aroumanian-Armanesti) in the mountainous regions of Thessaly, Epirus and Pindos. 3) Bulgarian (Bolgarski) which is spoken in Western Thrace by the Pomaks, who are a Moslem community. 4) The Slavo-Macedonian (Makedonski) in the region of Northern Greece and 5) the Turkish (Turkse) in Western Thrace. Also included were suggestions about how a distinct language and culture should be cultivated. Simultaneously the defendant was trying to address himself to the Vlachs who participated in the festivities, to persuade them that they constitute a minority and that they must claim their rights and that he had gone there in order to inform them. (See the testimony of Mr. Eugene Haitidis). Of course the defendant maintained in his testimony that he did not distribute the publication and that he had simply handed the single copy he had to the President of the Union. The examined witness Gregorio Ontrias stated the same. But base on the testimonies of the witnesses Eugene Haitidis, Georgios Makris and Ioanni Zapara, who were eyewitnesses' results that the defendant had more than one copy. (The first of the witnesses mentioned a bag full of leaflets, the second a package and the third several leaflets.) In addition the defendant himself in his July 1, 1995 unsworn statement mentioned many, while later on he specified that he only had two. The defendant however, as can be deduced from his aforementioned activities, was cognizant of the fact that in Greece there are no regional or minority languages as a characteristic of cohesion of a people or a nationality and that Vlachian in particular is not a language but a latinistic idiom. Subsequently, being a Vlach himself, the defendant knew that the previously mentioned and the issues contained in the indictment do not correspond to reality. He was also aware that the above mentioned hearsay was capable of inciting anxiety to the citizens and creating the impression that in Greece minorities exist. Despite all that, he went to the cultural event and with the distribution of the aforementioned publication, without the permission of the organizers spread the earlier mentioned false information, which indeed incited anxiety in the participants who knew the above mentioned positions of the defendant and had heard all he had verbally expressed during the distribution of the publication. Consequently, there exist the objective and subjective evidence for the act attributed in the indictment to the defendant, which is anticipated in the Article 191 of the Penal Code, and is aimed to the protection, in the narrow sense, of the Public Order, that is, to the establishment in the state of the rule of law (Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) 1126/1994) Penal Chron. Volume 44 847) and for this reason he must be declared guilty of it.

One member of the Court, Judge Stamatia Petsali, seated on the left, has the opinion that the defendant must be declared innocent because: From the aforementioned probative evidence results that, the inscribed in the publication map, which the defendant distributed on July1, 1995, in the cultural event of the Vlachs in Naousa, regarding the speaking in Greece of five more languages besides Greek, which are spoken in a smaller scale and area, in particular the Turkish language in the whole Western Thrace, the Bulgarian language in Western Thrace and in the areas of Pomaks, the Slavo-Macedonian in the whole Northern Greece, the AROUMANIAN-ARMANESTI in the mountainous regions of Thessaly, Epirus and Pindos, the Arvanitiki (Arberichte) in the areas of Western Greece, of Central Greece, Peloponnese and Euboea), is a true fact, which not only cannot be disputed, but to the contrary, has been repeatedly attested to by different public services, and by the state itself. (See especially the documents read in the court where are included data from the census.) The fact that these languages are spoken has not been disputed even by the complainant, who among other things, mentioned that these languages are spoken not by groups but by isolated individuals. In any case, even if it was about false information, this information would not be sufficient to incite citizens regarding minority problems in Greece, given that, as has been proven, it was about the existence of more, lesser used languages, without any connection with notions of minorities, and even more so, with minority problems. Consequently, the objective and subjective basis of the anticipated in the Article 191 of the Penal Code crime of spreading false information is not substantiated and therefore the defendant must be proclaimed innocent.

FOR THESE REASONS

JUDGES, in the presence of the defendant Sotiri Bletsa, resident of Athens, at 22 Vas. Herakleiou Street.

PROCLAIMS with a majority vote the defendant guilty of:

In Athens, on July 1,1995 propagated, in the manner described below, false information capable of inciting the populace, and particularly during the cultural event of the Vlachs in Naousa, distributed to people attending the event a pamphlet in the English language which he knew falsely stated that in Greece not including the Greek language, five other languages are spoken to a lesser extent. Specifically a) in the area of Evros, and indeed in the whole Western Thace the Turkish language is spoken; b) in Western Thrace also, in the Pomaks areas, the Bulgarian language; c) in the whole region of Northern Greece the Slavo-Macedonian language which is referred to with the familiar term of the State of Skopia (MAKEDONSKI); d) in the mountainous areas of Thessaly, Epirus and Pindos the Romanian language (AROYMANIKA-ARMANESTI); and e) in the areas of Central Greece, of Peloponnese and Euboea the Arvanitiki (Arberichte) language. This type of information was capable of generating anxiety to the citizens because it could create the impression that in Greece there are minority problems, a fact that he was aware of.

Following the reading of the verdict.

After listening to the Public Prosecutor who recommended the imposition of the penalty, against the defendant who was proclaimed guilty, of (12) twelve months prison sentence and a fine of five hundred (500.000) drachmas plus court costs which amounted to 25000 drachmas.

The defense counsel asked for the minimum penalty that can be appealed.

THOUGHT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW

The act for which the defendant was pronounced guilty by a majority verdict is punishable according to the provisions of Article 26 par. 1a, 27 par.1, 191 par. 1, of the Penal Code.

The Court, taking into consideration, on the one hand, the gravity of the crime which the defendant had committed, and on the other hand, the defendant's personality, judges by a majority verdict that the penalty referred to in the pronouncement must be imposed on the defendant.

The Court was led to this decision after taking into consideration, besides the assessment of the gravity of the crime the following evaluative criteria: the harm incurred through the crime, the dander caused by the crime, the nature and the type of the object of the crime, the circumstances (time, place, and manner) under which the crime was planned and carried out as well as the intensity of the deceit of the defendant.

The Court took further into consideration the assessment of the personality of the defendant, the causes which led him to commit the crime, the occasion that gave rise to it, the goal which the defendant sought, his character and the degree of his development, the human and social circumstances and his past as well as his conduct before and after the act. Finally the Court took in to consideration the defendant's financial standing and that of his family.

In accordance though with the opinion of one member of the Court, specifically the seating from the left Judge Stamata Petsali, the pronounced by the Public Prosecutor penalty of the (12) twelve-month imprisonment should have been imposed on the defendant.

FOR THESE REASONS

SENTENCES the defendant in to (15) fifteen months prison term by majority verdict and a fine of five hundred (500.000) drachmas unanimously.

At this point the defense counsel took the podium and asked for the suspension of the imposed prison term for his client, for a period of three years, and the appeal to have suspensive effect.

The President of the Court read the defendant's criminal record dated January 5, 2001, from which results that prior to today he had never been condemned for any punishable act.

The Public Prosecutor after taking the podium proposed the suspension of the execution of the prison sentence, which was imposed by the power of the court's decision against the defendant, for a period of three years and the appeal to have a suspensive effect.

Afterwards the Court, following a closed-door session in the presence of its secretary, made the decision, with the same as above number, which is as follows:

THOUGHT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW

In accordance with Article 99 par. 1 of the Penal Code, the Court is obligated to examine even without request, if the necessary conditions the for suspension of the execution the penalty are fulfilled and to particularly justify the by any chance negative judgment.

In the case at hand the defendant was condemned with the present decision to a (15) fifteen month prison sentence, that is, to a penalty which does not exceed two years, while from the criminal record which was read, results that until today he has never been convicted of any punishable act. Therefore for him all the necessary conditions for suspension of the aforementioned sentence, which has been imposed on him, have been fulfilled and must be ordered as it is specified in the pronouncement.

FOR THESE REASONS

SUSPENDS the aforementioned (15) fifteen-month sentence for a period of three years.

It rules that any appeal lodged by the defendant will have suspensive effect.

Lastly, the President of the Court disclosed the terms of the basis of which the suspension of the execution of the imposed sentence was granted.

It is affirmed that after the examination of each witness and before and after the issuing of every decision, all the participants of the trial were called upon to speak in order, and the defendant was always called last.

It was judged, decided and published in an open court session.

Athens, February 2, 2001

The President The Secretary

 

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