Sexual harassment claims expose Greece’s hidden secret

Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni (R) [EPA/EFE-ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU]

An increasing number of Greek artists and athletes have come forward in recent weeks to report cases of sexual harassment in the world of sports, TV and theatre, exposing a well-hidden secret in Greece.

A dozen artists have publicly declared that they have been sexually harassed in the past by famous actors. Some complaints also involve claims of paedophilia but no indictments have been issued yet. EURACTIV.com has learnt that more cases are about to be unveiled.

Olympic gold medallist Sofia Bekatorou let the cat out of the bag when she testified in a trial that she was sexually abused in 1998 by a high-ranking Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) official.

Her testimony encouraged women in the arts to break their silence, with dozens reporting similar sexual harassment cases.

“No matter how high some of the abusers are, they should be put on trial,” said the main opposition leader, leftist Alexis Tsipras.

The wave of reactions prompted the resignation of Dimitris Lignadis, the director of Greece’s National Theatre, who stressed, however, that there had been no official complaints against him but only “rumours”.

Tsipras accused the government of trying to cover up the scandal and asked for the resignation of the minister of culture Lina Mendoni (EPP), who had appointed Lignadis.

“For twenty days, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has not come forward and said that as the first citizen of the country, ‘I encourage everyone to come out and speak up’, Tsipras said, adding that many artists are receiving threats to keep quiet.

Government attempts to keep its distance

In an extraordinary press conference on Friday, Mendoni sought to distance herself from the already former head of Greece’s National Theatre.

“He deceived me […] with his deep acting art, he was trying to convince us that he has nothing to do with the rumours,” she said.

“Dimitris Lignadis is a dangerous man, but that has emerged only now,” she added, stressing that Lignadis had never been her “personal friend”.

A few days ago, however, the culture minister had publicly said that there was no official complaint against Lignadis and that he would not resign.

Commenting on the issue, leftist European lawmaker Stelios Kouloglou (GUE_NGL) said Mendoni should be held accountable.

“When she took over, she cancelled the competition for the selection of the director of the National Theatre and appointed Mr Lignadis. Now she says she did not know of his secret life but, in any case, she must assume the political responsibility,” Kouloglou said.

“There is an ongoing systematic attempt to cover up the political aspects of the case because Lignadis had relations with the prime minister. In fact, the subject of Lignadis was known to the elite and is characteristic of the hypocrisy of the parasitic Greek ruling class,” Kouloglou concluded.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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