A prominent Athens bishop has been acquitted by a court of antisemitic rhetoric, with the activists behind the claims being found guilty of “falsely accusing” him.
In 2015, Bishop Seraphim, the Metropolitan of Piraeus, allegedly said that the “international Zionist monster” that “controlled” the left-leaning government in power at the time was to blame for new legislation increasing civil rights among same-sex couples, while five years earlier he told a local television station that Jews were to blame for Greece’s debilitating debt crisis and that they had orchestrated the Holocaust. He later stated that these comments were his personal opinions and not those of the church.
Instead, the two human rights activists were found guilty of “falsely accusing” the Greek Orthodox bishop of racist hate speech by the three-member Athens tribunal and were given twelve-month jail sentences, suspended for three years.
Andrea Gilbert, one of the two activists who works at the Greek Helsinki Monitor rights group, said that the “outrageous” verdict was “representative of the institutionalised antisemitism that exists in Greece.” Ms Gilbert added: “We have immediately appealed and will fight it all the way.”
Ms Gilbert, in addition to the other convicted activist, the Helsinki Monitor spokesperson, Panayote Dimitras, had brought the complaint against Bishop Seraphim in April 2017. The pair accused the Bishop of public incitement to violence and hatred, in addition to abuse of ecclesiastical office.
The accusations referred to a statement that Greece’s Central Board of Jewish Communities, KIS, described as containing “well-known antisemitic stereotypes, conspiracy theories and traditional Jew-hating attitudes.”
Over two years later, their complaint was dismissed by a prosecutor, who argued that the Bishop’s statement should have been viewed within the framework of the Christian Orthodox church. The pair were charged in November and the case was referred to trial by a prosecutor after the Bishop filed his own complaint against the activists for reportedly making false statements.