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Greek High Court President Quits Over Pension Cuts, Rival Parties Blame SYRIZA

May 17, 2018

ATHENS – Furious over the leak of classified information about court deliberations concerning more coming pension cuts, the President of Greece’s highest court, the Council of State, has quit in protest.

Nikos Sakellariou said the new round of slashes to pensions, being imposed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – breaking promises to stop the cuts – would further devastate an already wracked sector of the elderly and beneficiaries.

New cuts of 18 percent will bring the cumulative total of pension reductions to near 50 percent for many Greeks, apart from some favored former high-ranking managers.

Sakellariou, 67, criticized the planned cuts, arguing they would drive a large section of the public “into total desperation,” at the same time Tsipras, breaking other anti-austerity pledges, authorized a mountain of tax hikes and taxes for the first time on low-and-middle income families who hadn’t earned enough to pay taxes.

Tsipras had sworn to put a 75 percent tax on the rich, but didn’t, and to crush the oligarchy, but didn’t, and to hunt down tax cheats, but didn’t.

The judge said information about discussion on the court over the so-called Katrougalos Law, named for a SYRIZA minister whose formula is bringing crushing new cuts, had been secretly leaked, with rival parties earlier saying Tsipras and his party are trying to obstruct justice and meddle with the judiciary unlawfully.

Sakellariou, whose term would end in six weeks, made the announcement as lead bailout negotiators launched talks in Athens with government ministers, and pensioners’ associations took to the streets for a second day in protest.

He said leaks of recent proceedings involving cases before the CoS are an “unacceptable violation” of ethics.

He announced his resignation before reaching the mandatory retirement age, while adding that another round of pension cuts in the country – passed by the leftist-rightist coalition government in 2016 – “will result in the complete devastation of pensioners”.

New Democracy Shadow Justice Minister Nikos Panayiotopoulos said the resignation was unprecedented and showed a breakdown in relations between the government and the legal system.

“The government must immediately explain this development. It is, however, necessary, when Justice is at the center of obvious government pressure, for top officials to perform their duties impartially, away from publicity,” he added.

The Movement for Change said the resignation, a first in the court’s history, is “another tangible proof of the borderline situation that has been created in Greek Justice.”

“The constant, overt, and divisive government interventions and attacks on the judiciary – which the outgoing president of the CoS had denounced last January – have caused deep wounds in the rule of law,” it added.

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