ATHENS – Reversing laws that went easy on even violent crimes, including rape and child abuse as well as human trafficking, the Greek Parliament controlled by the ruling New Democracy set tougher penalties across the board. The former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA had downgraded many crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and leniency for embezzlers although the country has been hit repeatedly by scandals seeing high-ranking ministers and officials stealing money.
Joining New Democracy were political rivals including the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL,) and the far-right Greek Solution while lawmakers from SYRIZA, the Communists and MeRA25 opposed, preferring lesser sentences for criminals.
"Those who claim to uphold morality must at some point also assume their own responsibility,” Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras told lawmakers during the debate, said Kathimerini in a report on the debate.
The bill had originally been slated to include a provision reinstating penalties for public blasphemy but that proposed reform was withdrawn by the minister following vehement criticism by the political opposition and a public outcry.
The bill triples for those found guilty of trafficking undocumented migrants, sets a minimum 10-year sentence for rape instead of 5-to-10 years as now, and stiffer terms for those convicted of abusing children.
The SYRIZA legislation, critics said, had been designed to get out of jail anarchists and terrorists, with the party riddled with supporters for them, but the New Democracy laws increase penalties for terrorism and using Molotov Cocktails against riot police which the Conservatives said the Leftists really supported.
Under the new law, Tsiaras said, throwing a Molotov Cocktail during a public protest will be a crime rather than a misdemeanor, that weapon being the favorite for anarchists who tangle frequently with riot police, especially in the neighborhood of Exarchia where police have been emptying abandoned buildings of refugees and migrants and going after drug dealers.
Ahead of the vote, Tsiaras said the conservative government’s revised bill sought to redress a “rushed” law passed by the previous administration in the summer which, he said, “created many gray areas and many concerns.” He said the laws would “to a great extent satisfy the common sense of what is right.”