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Society

Jailed Journalists Released, Kammenos Denies EU Refugee Funds Misused

September 25, 2018

ATHENS –  After having three journalists jailed overnight when their newspaper reported business friends of his had been getting contract from European Union funds meant to help refugees and migrants, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos denied any misspending.

Kammenos said that the ministry used around 90 million euros ($106 million) of the EU funds, with full transparency and an accounting of where it went but there was no explanation why the centers and camps were said to be near uninhabitable.

Human rights groups and activists and NGO’s working at the facilities, particularly the overrun Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, said the conditions aren’t fit and 20 groups joined in complaining to the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition that includes Kammenos’ tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL).

The Publisher, Editor and a journalist from Fileleftheros daily were detained by police over the weekend after Kammenos complained that he had been defamed by articles in the paper on how the funds were managed. They were held without charge before being released amid a furor over their detention and as a prosecutor pressed a probe.

Greece has been allotted 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion) in EU funds to address the immigration crisis. But living conditions for around 20,000 migrants in Aegean Sea island camps remain overcrowded and unsanitary, drawing repeated criticism from human rights groups.

The journalists went to the Athens police headquarters on Sept. 22 when informed that Kammenos was going to bring suit against them and were kept before a prosecutor opened an investigation into the incident.

Detained were Publisher Thanasis Mavridis, Editor Panagiotis Lampsas and journalist Katerina Galanou.

Lampsias called the matter “shameful,” and said that, “There is an issue with democracy when politicians in power believe that they can bring accusations against journalists whom they do not like. It is shameful for all those who tolerate such an utterely depraved procedure,” Kathimerini reported.

“My colleagues cannot have the fear hanging over them that they might be the next at risk from some minister,” he added. “The silence of SYRIZA which was a pioneer in the political defense of rights is shameful.”

“Freedom of the press has defeated vileness. This isn’t a trial against Fileleftheros, nor its journalists, it’s a victory for democracy, which the current executive power is trying to muzzle,” Lampsas said, in exiting the police precinct in the Exarchia district.

That was in reference to the ruling SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, many of whose members were student agitators when young and pushed for individual defenses some are now opposing when it conflicts with their reign.

“If someone believes that the publication of an article slurs an individual or that the article is incorrect, they can ask for their opinion to be published, so that their honor and reputation is restored,” the union said.

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

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