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Greek National Theater Director Investigated for Abuse of Refugee Children

National Theater director
Former Greek National Theater Artistic Director Dimitris Lignadis. Credit: Facebook/National Theatre of Greece

The public prosecutor’s office of Greece launched an investigation on Monday into the possible involvement of three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with Dimitris Lignadis, the former head of the Greek National Theater.

Lignadis resigned his politically-appointed position recently as a result of what he stated was a “toxic climate.”

He is the focus of the new investigation, which involves unaccompanied minor refugee children taking part in theatrical activities under his direction.

During the past several days, a media firestorm has erupted over the charges that refugee children who had taken part in the activities may have been victimized during the years 2017-2018.

Refugee children unwilling to return to drama classes

Sotiria Papageorgakopoulou, the head of the court prosecutors, has now ordered the investigation of all articles and social media posts claiming that the NGOs responsible for running shelters for unaccompanied refugee and migrant children at that time arranged for them to have drama lessons with Lignadis, who is currently facing charges as a serial rapist.

Meanwhile, Irini Agapidaki, the Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors in the Migration and Asylum Ministry, on Monday sent a memo to the prosecution asking for the investigation of the complaints that came to light concerning the period 2017-2018.

According to reports, many of the unaccompanied refugee children expressed reluctance and refused to return after two to three drama lessons.

Moreover, those responsible did not ask to know the reason why the children did not want to visit Lignadis nor did they make any report of this.

So far, according to Greek media reports, three NGO’s have allegedly been involved in the case.

Lignadis has already been accused, and arraigned for, of two rapes. One of a 14-year-boy, in 2010, and another for which the victim has been deposed in front of prosecutors and which has not been made known as of yet.

A woman who claimed to be intimately connected with Lignadis and was knowledgeable about his private life is said to have provided important testimony.

According to the Hellenic Police, Lignadis presented himself at police headquarters, in central Athens, where he was subsequently arrested.

Ugly political repercussions

Lignadis had resigned from his prominent post on February 6 after complaining of what he called a “toxic climate of rumors, innuendo, and leaks.”

However, since he was appointed to the post of National Theater artistic director by the Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, the government is now under fire.

Following the accusations against Lignadis, opposition parties have laid some of the blame for the wrongdoings at the feet of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Mendoni, even calling for her resignation.

There have been accusations by opposition parties that both PM Mitsotakis and Mendoni were aware of Lignadis’s illegal activities, yet they still placed him into the highest, most powerful position in Greece’s National Theater.

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni hand-picked Lignadis for the position in August of 2019 after doing away with an open competition for the directorship of the Theater.

Former director arrested on rape charges Sunday

The 56-year-old former theater director appeared before a prosecutor in Athens on Sunday and was ordered to respond to the multiple rape charges brought before him at that time by Wednesday.

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