Greek Government sentences Mt. Athos monks to 2 years in jail

Thessalonica, Greece, October 13, 2006 - In an Orwellian display of judicial backwardness, the Greek Court in Thessalonica has found the monks of the Holy and Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou guilty of disturbing the peace and sentenced them to 2 years in jail.

The monks, who seek only a life of peace and prayer in their monastery, have been subject to a non-stop campaign of official harassment and intimidation by Patriarch Bartholomew of Istanbul, Turkey, and his accomplices in the Greek government, because of a spiritual disagreement they have with him. And it is now the monks who have been found guilty of disturbing the peace by the Greek courts.

The Greek Police and Coast Guard have blockaded the delivery of food, medicine, fuel oil and have denied access to doctors seeking to provide urgently needed medical care to the elderly monks. Under the Greek constitution, the Foreign Minister, Ms. Dora Bakoyiannis is the minister responsible for these actions.

Greek Government officials have told Esphigmenou that these actions would end, and their human rights restored, if they drop their dissent from the official state church. The monks have sought a dialogue with Patriarch Bartholomew to ask him to end his persecution of them, but he has refused. Instead he has used the Greek Police as his own private army to make an example of anyone who would question his personal interpretations of the faith.

This legal decision is just the latest act of blatant persecution of these peaceful and prayerful monks. Unable to starve the monks into leaving their monastery with their blockade, Patriarch Bartholomew and his accomplices in the Greek government have used their considerable resources to craft a legal justification to provide a cover for their persecution. As such, the persecuted monks have been convicted of the absurd charge of disturbing the peace, and with being "illegal occupants" of their monastery home of over 1500 years. Patriarch Bartholomew conspired with the local Greek authorities to create a "new" monastic brotherhood with the same name, Esphigmenou. Even though the creation of this brotherhood clearly violates the Charter of Mt. Athos, this imposter brotherhood has "legally" told the Greek authorities to seize and empty bank accounts, cut telephone lines to the Monastery, block delivery of food supplies and mail, and prohibit doctor visits.

This official persecution of the monks is executed by the same court which has refused to even consider the assault case, when sledge hammer wielding monks from the Patriarch's "new" Esphigmenou were captured on video viciously attacking the monks of Esphigmenou in an brazen and unprovoked assault.

Abbot Methodios of Esphigmenou Monastery said "We will not be intimidated. Our battle has always been for the truth and it still is. This Monastery is ours and is our home and no one can make us leave our home because we disagree with them and they falsely label us as 'schismatic' and 'illegal occupiers' of our monastery. We would rather die here in our monastery. Our persecutors should know, that in Orthodoxy, the ends do not justify the means." The monastery appeals to the civilized world for help in ending this persecution.

Esphigmenou lawyer Mr. Nektarios Polychroniou said the fact that the Fathers of Esphigmenou have been brought before the Greek Criminal Court and now face jail time "is preposterous and an outrage to every citizen who believes in freedom of speech and the right to dissent without being forced from your home."

For More Information Contact:

John Rigas, tel (USA):  (617) 524-4724, fax:  (617) 524-7142