FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 20 January 2022
Media inquiries for defendants:
Media inquiries regarding upcoming trials:
HUMAN RIGHTS NGOS CALL ON GREEK COURTS TO DELIVER “NOT GUILTY” VERDICTS FOR NONVIOLENT HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS AT UPCOMING ACROPOLIS TRIAL’ ON 26 JANUARY 2022 AND ‘OLYMPIA TRIAL’ ON 3 FEBRUARY 2022
ATHENS—On the morning of October 17th, 2021 Tsela Zoksang, an 18-year-old Tibetan-American, and Joey Siu, a 21-year-old Hong Kongese-American activist, waved the Tibetan flag and a flag in support of freedom in Hong Kong from scaffolding at the Acropolis site in Athens while chanting “Boycott Beijing 2022” and “Free Tibet.” Greek authorities promptly confiscated their flag and the student activists were detained by Greek police and kept in jail overnight. The following day, Tibetan-Canadian activist Chemi Lhamo, joined by American and British human rights activists, protested during the Olympic Torch Lighting Ceremony in Olympia. The activists shouted slogans and held a banner reading “No Genocide Games” as well as a Tibetan flag. The three protesters were promptly tackled to the ground by security and were detained and held for more than 2 days in a local jail in Pyrgos, Greece before being released pending trial.
The activists are now awaiting trial facing charges of attempting to “pollute, damage, and distort” a historical monument, a charge punishable by up to five years imprisonment under Greek law. The activists facing charges in relation to the protests at the Acropolis will stand trial in Athens, Greece on January 26th, 2022, while the activists facing charges in relation to the Olympia protest will stand trial in Pyrgos on February 3rd, 2022, the eve of the opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Lawyers representing the activists dispute the charges and believe the group of activists as young as 18-years-old have been handed unfounded charges beyond the scope of any of their actions. The activists’ legal representation further believe that the prosecution for these charges, and any resulting conviction, constitutes a breach of their rights to Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, and Freedom of Thought and Conscience under the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Activists that peacefully protest to condemn human rights violations are not criminals. The six activists facing trial are upstanding compassionate members of society who have taken a stand against injustice. The international community must not allow them to be scape-goated through Beijing’s growing influence in democratic countries.”Pema Doma, Campaigns Director at Students for a Free Tibet
“No destruction of any historical monument by human rights activists took place in Greece—on October 18th, I held a ‘No Genocide Games’ banner and asked a single question: ‘How can Beijing be allowed to host the games given that they are committing a genocide against the Uyghurs?’ No court can believe this makes me guilty of ‘attempting to destroy a historical site’ without losing its legitimacy as an impartial and fair judiciary body. The real destruction of historical monuments by the Chinese government happens throughout Tibet every day. Just weeks ago, a 99-foot Buddha statue, 45 prayer wheels, and even a monastic school were violently demolished by the Chinese government in Drago, Tibet. Students were expelled, local community members were detained and tortured for simply sharing information. That is the true crime, yet the IOC rewards China with the Winter Olympics.”Chemi Lhamo, Tibetan-Canadian human rights activist
“The activists in this case asked how Beijing can be allowed to use the Olympics and its symbols for propaganda purposes whilst genocide and crimes against humanity take place against the Uyghur people, whilst the intense repression against Tibetans continues unabated, and whilst the destruction of freedoms in Hong Kong takes place before our eyes. Many around the world will be asking the same questions. The European Court of Human Rights takes a very strict view of attempts to restrict the important right to freedom of assembly, expression, and thought and conscience. It has stated that ‘Interfering with peaceful assemblies, save where there has been incitement to violence or a threat to democratic principles, does a disservice to democracy and even endangers it (Faber v Hungary). The charging of the activists with an obscure offence that does not meet the facts of what took place is a clear breach of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and the principle that any limitation of these rights must be prescribed by law.”Michael Polak, Director of Justice Abroad, who is representing the activists along with Greek lawyer Alexis Antagnostakis:
“In my opinion, the accusation is groundless and invalid. No destruction of historical monuments took place, instead it was a symbolic peaceful protest, protected by domestic and international law. The protesters’ action was an act of raising awareness and informing the global public about the crimes of occupation and violation of human rights in Tibet and elsewhere. They chose the Acropolis and Olympia as symbols of democracy and the cradle of Western civilization. From the Acropolis and Olympia, they symbolically defended democracy and the freedom of the people. The protesters deserve praise instead of arrests and handcuffs.”Alexis Anagnostakis