On Τuesday December 6, three more HIV-positive women who were forcibly tested, exposed and imprisoned in the operation chronicled in our documentary were acquitted from a charge of serial attempt to cause grievous bodily harm by a Greek court.
Lawyers for two of the three women Kostas Farmakidis and Chara Papageorgiou called the acquittal a “great victory” emphasizing that apart from establishing the women’s innocence the court accepted that earlier testimony by Sp. Sapounas -the doctor who performed forcible tests on behalf of the Greek Centre for Disease Control/KEELPNO- was in breach of the law and that their arrest by police officers was based on insufficient evidence. The court also made the unprecedented judgement that the women’s mugshots must be removed from websites where they have been posted since 2012 along with names, dates of birth and other personal data following original publication on the website of the Greek police.
In his closing argument, the prosecutor Ioannis Panagopoulos recommended the women’s acquittal saying that the authorities responsible for the operation exceeded the limits of proportionality in the protection of public health. At the time of the mass operation which saw hundreds of arrests in central Athens, then health minister for the socialist PASOK party Andreas Loverdos claimed that the women constituted a “health bomb”. Police and KEELPNO doctors subjected them to forcible blood tests inside vans and police stations without their informed consent or lawful procedures recommended for HIV testing and diagnosis being followed.
On Tuesday, the prosecutor also mentioned a lack of evidence that the three women were sex workers or had unprotected sex with alleged clients and accepted that the only substantiated claim was their intravenous drug use. He also said that alleged clients might have engaged in unlawful sexual exploitation due to the women’s condition. The prosecutor said no evidence was presented to support intent in the original charge (later reduced to grievous bodily harm without intent).
Meanwhile, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority issued a new recommendation this week asking websites to remove the mugshots. The HDPA was one of several independent Greek authorities and organizations widely criticized for failing to take a firm position in defence of the women during their persecution in 2012. In a similar move, former justice minister and Syriza MP Nikos Paraskevopoulos, filed a parliamentary question to the interior minister about the published mugshots and the introduction of legislative reforms to prevent similar violations of personal data protection in the future.
A separate trial of 11 more women which started last month, continues at the Athens Evelpidon courthouse on Monday, December 12. More trials are due to take place in January.
A total of 11 women have now been acquitted in relation to the operation that saw 32 prosecutions. The first 8 women were acquitted in 2013.
This post has incorporated reportage from news247.gr by Antonia Xynou (original article in Greek here: http://news247.gr/eidiseis/