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Trial of Lagarde list journalist starts in Athens

media Costas Vaxevanis (C) arrives at court in Athens on Thursday Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis

The trial of Greek journalist Costas Vaxevanis for publishing names on the so-called “Lagarde list” of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts started in Athens on Thursday morning. “We will endure. Will they?” he tweeted before the trial began.

Greek lawyers were on strike over the government’s austerity programme on Thursday but exempted Vaxevanis’s legal team so that he could be represented, a judicial source said.

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The case against the editor of Hot Doc magazine has aroused charges of censorship at home and abroad although prosecutors argue that it concerns breach of privacy.

Vaxevanis, who points out that he only publicised the existence of the accounts and not their contents, could face three years in jail.

His lawyers promised that several of the 2,000 people on the list would testify in his defence.

The list was passed to the Greek government by France’s then-finance minister Christine Lagarde, who has since become head of the International Monetary Fund.

The government took no action on it for two years, arguing that it could not do so since it was stolen data.

Vaxevanis say that he received the information in an anonymous letter whose sender claimed to have received it from a politician.

Hot Doc published another issue on Thursday.

In it Vaxevanis accused Greek journalists of burying the story and, in an article entitled “You know where to stick the list”, answered questions about why he published the names.

The Lagarde list is not the only case of alleged assaults on press freedom in Greece recently. Others include:

  • On 31 October journalist Spiros Karatzaferis was arrested after announcing he would publish allegedly damaging information about the couintry’s economy;
  • On 29 October TV presenters Kostas Arvanatis and Marilena Katsimi were taken off their morning news programme on Greek state TV after discussing the British Guardian’s claims of police torture of anti-fascist protesters and criticising Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias;
  • On 9 October Dendias declared his intention of suing the Guardian over the torture story, which also alleged that the far-right Golden Dawn movement had many members in the police force.

For more details, see Index on censorship - Greece: Free speech faces abyss


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