On a trial of a Greek in Macedonia


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Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 19:50:25 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: On a trial of a Greek in Macedonia

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Original sender: Greek Helsinki Monitor & Minority Rights Group -
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On a trial of a Greek in Macedonia

 
GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR
& MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP - GREECE
P.O. Box 51393, GR-14510 Kifisia, Greece;
tel. 30-1-620.01.20; fax: 30-1-807.57.67;
e-mail: office@greekhelsinki.gr
http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/
------------------------------------------------------------
 
PRESS RELEASE
 
30/3/1998
 
TOPIC: HOW THE GREEK MASS MEDIA SUPPORT WITH PASSION A CONTRIBUTOR TO
RACIST AND NATIONALIST PAPER "STOHOS"
 
(Follows an observation report of the 14 May trial)
 
The cooperating organizations Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority
Rights Group - Greece wish to bring the case of Nikos Konstantinidis
(N.K)/ Michaelofski, a Greek from the Republic of Macedonia, to public
attention.

Our organizations reported this case to the Macedonian Helsinki
Committee for Human Rights (MHC) following the first reports in the
Greek press. These appeared in October 1997 alleging that N.K. was
being persecuted because of his Greek origin. The MHC agreed to
monitor the case and informed us that it appeared to be a simple penal
case. It is alleged that N.K. wounded another person in a fight.
However, as he declared to a representative of the MHC, "during this
fight, one of my neighbors bumped into my knife while he was trying to
hit me." We were disappointed to discover that the MHC failed to send
an observer to the 19/3/98 trial, nor did they give us advance warning
that this would be the case.
 
The coverage of this case by much of the Greek mass media has been
incredibly one-sided. When even the Greek state kept its distance, the
media - not just the right wing nationalistic newspapers (Adesmeftos
Typos and Eleftheros Typos), but also those which are normally more
open-minded (Avghi and Eleftherotypia) - presented wholeheartedly the
figure of a "persecuted Greek." "I am on trial because I declared my
origin" was the title of Avghi in a half-page interview with N.K.
(24/12/97). Among other things he expressed his nationalistic views on
the citizens of the neighboring country e.g. calling the Macedonians
"Bulgarophones" and the Vlachs of Macedonia "Greek Vlachs." These
opinions were supported by Avghiís correspondent. To those who knew
that N.K. had been a contributor to Stohos (an extreme
nationalist-fascist paper) since 1995, and that they awarded him the
"Diploma of National Dignity" in January 1997 (Stohos, 24/12/98) these
views were not surprising. N.K.ís links with Stohos were widely known
but not mentioned by the newspapers.
 
The misinformation continued. According to Avghi (24/12/97) N.K. was
not tried because of the alleged wounding of a neighbor, but because a
77-year-old resident of Ressen accused him of "observing him with a
hostile look." According to the Sundayís Press (21/12/97) the "modern
Greek national martyr" was brought before the court simply because he
succeeded in making his attackers leave. In other words, the
accusation of wounding someone has been withheld. As Adesmeftos Typos
(16/12/97) mentions, "he sees himself as being persecuted for
allegedly beating four Skopians at one and the same time."

The Sundayís Press (21/12/97) printed a photograph showing N.K.ís
lawyer and the "shameful legal brief." However in a fax from N.D.ís MP
Evgenios Haitidis to our organization and Amnesty International
(14/3/97), it is claimed that N.K. has neither a lawyer nor a copy of
the legal documents. None of the press mention that the court provided
N.K. with an interpreter of the Greek language.

Furthermore, in an attempt to ridicule Amnesty International, the MP
has "invented" a non-existing "Skopian branch" within their
organization. (Adesmeftos Typos 24/12/97 and 20/3/98) Mr. Haitidis
seems to be fond of lies and defamation but as a deputy enjoys the
safety of his special legal status of inviolability, which has sent
our previous lawsuits for intended libel to the archives. He declares
that although Mr. Dimitras was in Skopje [meaning the Republic of
Macedonia] in near-by Ohrid on the day of the trial "obviously he
thought there was no need to be concerned about a person who was going
to be tried for serious accusations and by a process which brutally
violates human rights. My information that Mr. Dimitras is financed by
Skopje is clearly true." (Adesmeftos Typos, 20/3/98)

In fact, the representative of our organizations was in Vienna during
the time of the trial, and not in Ohrid until the evening of 19/3/98
where he joined 70 other delegates at a conference. E. Haitiidis was
obviously informed about his presence there by N.K., whom Mr. Dimitras
contacted and asked to meet at some point during the international
conference in Ohrid. He also asked for all the legal documents
referring to the case to be sent to our office, which has not happened
so far. In order to strengthen the rumor that it is difficult for
someone to find him, as Avghi (24/12/97) reported, it is typical that
N.K. told our representative that he does not have a phone line at
home. This was contradicted by the N.D. MPís office which gave us the
phone number which our representative used to contact him for the
second time.

Ironic references about the Greek Helsinki Monitor for its supposed
lack of interest in the case of N.K. were also made by Eleftheros
Typos (11/12/97) and Eleftherotypia (12/12/97). It seems that there is
a national consensus on the "right" of a pro-Stohos nationalist to
have immunity when he "allegedly" wounds a fellow citizen in a
neighboring state just because he is a Greek minority representative.
In doing so, the press seems to align itself with the views of the
nationalist E. Haitidis, whose activities in the past caused problems
for Greece internationally. In one example, a Greek citizen of Vlach
origin arrested three years ago, is still being persecuted for
distributing an EU pamphlet concerning the Less Known Languages. This
followed a lawsuit from E. Haitidis. The case has already been
mentioned in international reports for human rights and in the State
Department report, something which the Greek media has also failed to
mention.

REPORT
from the court trial against Nikola Konstantinidis, held on 14 May
1998 in the First Instance Court in Resen
 
On 14 May 1998 in the First Instance Court in Resen was held another
session from the trial against Nikola Konstantinidis who was known in
the previous court proceedings as Nikola Mladenovski, born in 1972,
and based on the charges filed for light body injury by Vlade
Conevski. The plaintiff Conevski was represented by the
attorney-at-law Risto Aleksovski, while the defendant by the
attorney-at-law from Bitola, Gjorgi Pili. The court session, on
request of the defendant Nikola Konstantinidis, was held with the
assistance of a court interpreter from Macedonian in Greek, and
vice-versa. The court interpreter was Tanas Sterjov from Bitola.

At the beginning, the judge Biljana, in accordance with the court
procedure, suggested that the two parties involved make an effort for
a reconciliation. The plaintiff accepted  reconciliation under the
condition that he be paid damages amounting to DM 5 000 in denar
counter-value. At that, the defendant Konstantinidis demanded that the
court trial be continued. 

In accordance with the legally stipulated procedure, the
attorney-at-law for the plaintiff orally presented the charges,
formulating them as "physical assault by Nikola Konstantinidis on
Vlade Conevski, whereby Conevski got a light physical injury in the
area of the groin." The attorney-at-law for Konstantinidis, Gjorgi
Pili afterwards concluded that now these charges are different from
the ones previously submitted by Vlade Conevski, in written form to
the Court. Namely, in the previously submitted charges to the Court in
written form, Konstantinidis is sued for "a mutual quarrel in which
Conevski got a light physical injury by Konstantinidis." Considering
that the present oral formulation represents an essential change of
the initial charges which charge Konstantinidis only for a physical
assault, Pili demanded from the judge that:
 
1) the present charges be delivered to him in written form, and
2) to be given time to prepare the defense in the sense of the new
formulation of the charges.

The judge Biljana accepted the proposal of the defendant whereby the
trial was again postponed and was rescheduled for 23 June 1998. The
judge warned the involved parties that court summons would not be sent
to them. Hence, it is considered as obligatory for the involved
parties on 23 June 1998 to appear at the court trial which will
commence at 9 o'clock in the morning, in the First Instance Court in
Resen.

The defendant Nikola Konstantinidis demanded that the newly formulated
charges be delivered to him in his mother tongue. At that, the
attorney-at-law for the plaintiff said that the charges will be
written and delivered to the Court in accordance with the Law on
Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Macedonia.

Thereby, the court session ended. As a conclusion, one should say that
the court procedure treatment was duly respected both by the presiding
judge and by the involved parties. During the court session, one of
the Greek observers tried twice to intervene which was stopped by the
judge Biljana with the warning that persons whose status is that of
being merely present in the courtroom, do not have the right to
intervene in the court proceedings.
 
During the court session, as observers, besides Meto Jovanovski as the
representative of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
who also represented the Greek Helsinki Monitor for Human Rights, were
present several Greek citizens from Seres and Athens, among which were
three Members of the Greek Parliament and a dozen of journalists with
their cameras and microphones, mainly from the local media. The
journalists were again not allowed to make either audio or visual
records, because in accordance with the Law, for this a permission
must be obtained from the Supreme Court of the Republic of Macedonia.
During the last court session, a small incident broke out when one of
the Greek citizens (a Member of the Greek Parliament) tried secretly
to smuggle into the courtroom a small tape recorder.
 
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
will send its observer also on the next court session, scheduled for
23 June 1998.
 
In Resen, on 14 May 1998.
 
OBSERVER,

(Meto Jovanovski)
 
======================================================
Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
chairman, Meto Jovanovski
email: helkom@soros.org.mk
phone: +389 91 119 073
addr:  M. H. Jasmin 18/1/6 91000 Skopje, Macedonia
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