Mr Sotiris Bletsas, a member of the Society for Aromanian
(Vlach) Culture, has been convicted last 2 February to fifteen months in
prison and a 500.000 drs. fine for dissemination of false information (under
Article 191 of the penal code). The charges were based on the fact that,
in July 1995, he had distributed in the Aromanian festival a publication
of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages which mentioned the minority
languages in Greece.
On 21 September 2001, the First Appeals Court of Athens postponed the
hearing on Sotiris Bletsas' case until 18 December because of the absence
of all three prosecution witnesses. The appeals trial had previously been
postponed on 4 July. This was also due to the absence of the prosecution
witnesses. Although Greek law states that these witnesses could be held
in contempt and punished, especially when they are present at the beginning
of a hearing and then fail to appear for court, the court has not invoked
In the answer to a previous parliamentary question, the Commission considered
this topic to be of high importance and said that it was following it
carefully. Has the Commission asked the Greek government to provide a
copy of the sentence and any other information related to this matter
? Does the Commission share the deep concerns raised by several associations,
political parties and academics?
Does the Commission consider this attitude compatible with the European
values of freedom of expression and opinion, and cultural and linguistic
Could the legal services of the Commission analyse if Article 191 of
the Greek penal code is in accordance with the spirit of the principles
of liberty, democracy, respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
and the rule of law recognised by the Treaties?
In strict legal terms, does the Commission consider that the Greek state
should investigate the improper summons which contributed crucially to
the postponement, as well as the necessity of the postponement itself
? Will the Commission investigate if this attitude might violate the right
to a fair trial ?