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Greek Minister Sorry Over COVID-19 Arrest of Feminist Activists

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Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Sotiris Dimitropoulos)

ATHENS – Although they were in violation of COVID-19 lockdown rules prohibiting public gatherings, nine members of feminist groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rallying to mark the Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25 shouldn't have been detained or fined.

That was said by Citizens Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis who apologized to them at the same time the New Democracy government wanted action taken against rival parties who had taken part in Nov. 17 marches marking the anniversary of a 1973 student uprising that helped bring down a ruling military junta.

The nine women, who included an activist of the Greek chapter of Amnesty International, were initially detained and then arrested and fined 300 euros ($359.51) for violating the lockdown.

“These ladies are right. I think it was an exaggeration that should not have taken place, and I have to apologize for that. This exaggeration should not have happened,” the minister said on Real FM radio.

He didn't explain why they should have been exempt even for what their supporters said was the righteousness of their cause while others were being fined for being out without permissible reasons – which don't include marches or rallies that could spread the Coronavirus.

Amnesty International said that, "Arresting, fining and charging peaceful activists simply for staging symbolic actions against gender-based violence is an assault on their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” Amnesty's Regional Director for Europe, Nils Muiznieks, said in a statement.

“Activists must not be penalized for trying to raise awareness about gender-based violence, let alone at a time when women and girls face increased risks due to lockdowns and other restrictions around the world,” he added.

He said the women were wearing masks and observing safe social distances although public gatherings of that type weren't allowed for any reason and the law requires organizers to notify police.