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Greek Minister Calls for Official Investigation into Sexual Harassment Claims

Sexual harassment
Lina Mendoni in 2020. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni called on Friday for an official investigation into the sexual harassment and abuse claims against the director of the Greek National Theater and other men who have been targeted lately as part of a growing awareness of the reality of sexual harassment in the country.

Mendoni, however, was quick to defend herself against any allegations that she, as Culture Minister, might have been aware of any abuse, stating to reporters on Friday “Nobody had ever told me anything.”

She then added that she was not aware of the personal lives of the artists who performed at venues. “We didn’t cover up anything,” she said.

“Hideous and disgraceful”

“Sexual abuse is a hideous and disgraceful case,” she said, adding that “we are a state governed by the rule of law and that is why we are moving forward through the institutional path, the judicial path.”

Several men have also claimed they had been abused as minors and teenagers by one famous Greek star.

Mendoni stated on Friday to reporters that she had formally asked the nation’s Supreme Court prosecutor to investigate the disturbing allegations.

“Strongly pressured” Lignadis to speak about claims

The Culture Minister referenced former Greece’s National Theater artistic director Dimitris Lignadis, who resigned earlier this month after complaining of what he called a “toxic climate of rumors, innuendo and leaks.”

Mendoni also added that said she herself had confronted Lignadis about the accusations — many of which took place so long ago that they are beyond the criminal statute of limitations.

“We strongly pressured Lignadis to say if he was the one named in the rumors… there was a steady denial that the rumors were not about him,” Mendoni said.

“Deceived me with theatrical performance”

“Lignadis deceived us and deceived me with theatrical performance,” Mendoni said according to Greece’s state-run news agency AMNA.

Mendoni added “from the first time the rumors started we pressed him to tell the truth. With the art of acting,” she charged pointedly, “he tried to convince us that the rumors are not about him. And while the rumors multiplied for his inappropriate actions, he insisted.”

The Culture Minister then said that the director had resigned after an interview by a man called “N.S.” with interviewers from a website.

N.S., who describes himself as a “former actor,” spoke at that time about his brutal abuse at the hands of an art director.

“A dangerous man”

Mendoni stated on Friday that “he is a dangerous man” and that “we learned this now; we didn’t know it before.”

The acclaimed theater director has not been formally charged at this point and he continues to deny the allegations against him.

Mendoni added that she had spoken to the attorney for one of the men who claims that he was raped when he was a teenager.

The news comes as Greece experiences a belated #MeToo movement, begun when a prominent female athlete, two-time Olympic sailing medalist, Sofia Bekatorou, accused the head of the Greek sailing federation, of raping her when she was 21 years of age. That case is now in the courts.

Cascade of charges after Bekatorou’s allegations

The incident allegedly took place shortly after the trials for the 2000 Olympics, held in Sydney, Australia.

After Bekatorou’s allegations, a cascade of charges quickly began to rain down on the heads of other prominent figures in Greece, including the famous Greek actor Giorgos Kimoulis, who is universally recognized as one of the country’s finest thespians.

He was suddenly barred from taking part in this year’s iconic Athens and Epidaurus Festival, after a number of actresses complained about sustaining abuse from him, even including hitting them during performances.

Petros Filippidis, one of Greece’s best-known comedians, was recently removed from a popular television show after charges of lewd behavior were leveled by actresses with whom he had come in contact.

Mendoni now targeted, asked to resign

Mendoni herself, as Culture Minister, became the target of politicians from the main opposition Syriza party, along with a group of performers, who have openly called for her resignation.

Earlier on Friday, Greek PM Mitsotakis noted that “A veil of silence has broken with the shocking revelations in the context of the #MeToo movement.”

While speaking in their monthly meeting on Friday, Mitsotakis and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou discussed the shocking developments in this sphere. The revelations of the recent past have spurred an awakening of the reality of sexual harassment in the country.

Greek President says “time has come to take action”

“The phenomena of authoritarian violence, primarily against women but not only women, which I believe shocked us all, shook us all, and some people broke the silence with their voices,” the Greek PM stated at the meeting.

“The time has now come for us to take action on these allegations.”

President Sakellaropoulou stated, regarding the revelations concerning Greece’s National Theater, “I am deeply concerned over what is being heard and happening, especially in the field of art revealing an acute problem that probably existed for years, and is now emerging with intensity.

“Abuse cannot be tolerated” any longer

“Abuse of power, violence – verbal and physical – whether it is in the workplace, or in education, or in personal and family relationships cannot be tolerated,” she declared.

“People finally spoke and we have a duty to support these people, to protect their dignity and to bring justice.

“We must also restore the prestige of individuals and institutions where it is needed but it is just as important to respect the rule of law that guarantees the rights of all those involved,” Sakellaropoulou, who previously served on the Supreme Court of Greece.

“It is a very important dimension in this matter. Let’s hope that in the course of time things will get the right dimension.”

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