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Society

Greek National Theater Head Charged With Rape, Sex Scandals Spread

February 21, 2021

ATHENS – After denying any wrongdoing and Greece’s Culture Minister saying he lied to her, Dimitris Lignadis – the head of the Greek National Theater – was arrested and charged with rape, including that of a 14-year-old boy in 2010.

Lignadis, 56, turned himself in at Athens police headquarters, Greek Police spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos told the Associated Press and was held pending an appearance before a magistrate.

According to media reports, at least three people have made allegations against Lignadis, including the alleged victim in the case 11 years ago, who is now 25 years old. Lignadis again denied the accusations.

Rumors of his alleged sexual misconduct grew for weeks but Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said he deceived her too in rejecting the stories as rumors without grounds, even though he stepped down earlier in February.

Mendoni said Lignadis was a “dangerous man” who had “deceived” her with his acting ability and asked a Supreme Court prosecutor to investigate all abuse allegations in Greece’s theater community.

He had held the post of Artistic Director at the National Theater, his arrest coming as stories are spreading in the arts community about more cases of sexual harassment, mainly of women, by men in positions of power and other actors or directors.

Revelations earlier this year by Olympic gold medalist Sofia Bekatorou that he was raped by a sailing federation official back in 1998 have sparked a #MeToo reckoning movement in Greece although that case and many others can’t be prosecuted because of a statute of limitations law with expiry dates.

People have come forward to accuse well-known figures in the entertainment of sexual harassment, assault and rape. Well-known actors and directors have come under fire, but Lignadis is the first to be arrested.

The case has taken on political dimensions. The major opposition SYRIZA accused Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government of failing to follow up on complaints although he was among the first to commend Bekatorou and denounce sexual harassment.

One of those accused is an actor who had been appointed a minister under a former SYRIZA government, party leader Alexis Tsipras not mentioning that or that his government made rape a dismeanor before it was amended by Mitsotakis’ administration.

A woman who was intimately connected with Lignadis and was knowledgeable about his private life, is said to have provided important testimony in the case as sex scandals surge in the arts community and have tainted the government, although many apparently happened years before.

#THEM TOO

Lignadis turned himself in after being told an arrest warrant was out for him, his lawyer, Nikos Georgouleas, said in a text message. Speaking later outside police headquarters, where his client was being held, Georgouleas said his client denied the charges.

“Everything that is being heard, he denies,” the lawyer said, The New York Times reported, neither Lignadis nor his lawyer saying why the director stepped down if he were innocent.

Lignadis resigned in the wake of reports emerged suggesting that he had sexually harassed young actors, which he furiously denied, the paper said. After his resignation, more reports emerged, alleging more serious abuse.

Bekatorou’s charges opened the floodgates on what is a common secret in Greece, that of most young women being preyed up by men in authority or peers, victims afraid to jeopardize their careers by speaking out or being stigmatized for doing so, but a #MeToo movement is now taking hold.

Mendoni underlined the need for “catharsis” in Greece’s cultural sector and said that sexual abuse, particularly against minors, must not go unpunished.

Mendoni’s critics blame her for appointing Lignadis to the National Theater but she said that neither she nor Mitsotakis, had known Mr Lignadis “personally,” and knew him only as an actor.

“With deep acting talent he tried to convince us that he had nothing to do with all this,” Mendoni said, referring to the accusations of abuse.

Mitsotakis also referred to the mounting number of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment in the Greek performing arts during a televised meeting with President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, The Times noted.

“The sexual abuse of minors is the most abhorrent version of this phenomenon,” Mitsotakis said at the meeting. “In the public dialogue that has fortunately begun we must achieve the greatest possible political and social consensus if we are to tackle the problem,” he said.

Greek prosecutors are expected to start summoning witnesses next week for their broader inquiry into allegations of abuse and harassment in the Greek arts world, starting with the head of the country’s actors’ union, Spyros Bibilas, who said the union has been deluged with complaints by actors reporting alleged abuse.

After Lignadis’ arrest, the Justice Ministry said that judicial authorities “will do whatever is necessary in order to ensure everything comes to light on this very shady case and for justice to be done.”

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

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