Greek Sex Scandals Ignite Debate, New Democracy Offers Reforms

Αssociated Press

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a parliamentary session in Athens, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Mitsotakis has promised to outline proposed legal changes in parliament on Thursday to make it easier for victims of sexual assault to report the crimes. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS - As the former director of Greece’s National Theatre - facing rape charges that include a minor - was set to make his defense, the under-fire New Democracy government said it would put forth legislation to make it easier for victims to report cases.

That came as a raft of sex abuse cases poured out of a number of sectors including sports, the media and the arts community, the government blamed for a slow response to that of Dimitris Lignadis, who stepped down as the head of the national theater.

Many of the charges are being made anonymously and while it’s uncertain when they allegedly occurred the initial claims featured those from years ago, long before the current government took power in July 7, 2019 snap elections.

Still, the major opposition SYRIZA - which passed laws just before being ousted reducing the penalties for rape - called for Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, who hired Lignadis, to step down.

The government and rival parties were set to be locked into a debate on Feb. 25 at the same time that Lignadis’ lawyer, famed celebrity and criminal attorney Alexis Kougias has already said the case should be dismissed because the alleged victims “were Egyptians.”

He earlier said witnesses against his client were “professional homosexuals,” and that Lignadis was innocent without saying why his client resigned his position, and as reports surfaced of more abuse cases in the arts.

Kougias, described the allegations as a “crude fabrication” and filed for his arrest warrant to be revoked. He also claimed that he can prove his client was not present when the alleged incidents occurred without disputing that they did or who may have perpetrated them.

Under Greek law, suspects are not named before trial unless exceptions are made to serve the public interest or they voluntarily identify themselves to assist their defense, a rule almost always broken when politicians fight.

Multiple cases of alleged sexual misconduct and abuse have been made public since Greek Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by a sailing federation official in 1998.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is standing by Mendoni, who hand-picked Lignadis, the Premier nevertheless saying his government would propose legal changes help victims of sex crimes come forward easier.

The cases of Lignadis and Bekatarou have added to a growing #MeToo movement in Greece about alleged sexual offenses, many said to have been committed by men in power toward women, but also men.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)