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Greece: Tales of Torture

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Had it worked, the scheme might have been a public relations coup of sorts for the ruling Greek junta. Two months ago, acting on a Scandinavian complaint that the Athens regime had unjustly suspended constitutional rights in Greece and was permitting the torture of prisoners, the Human Rights Commission of the Council of Europe, an 18-nation organization created to foster social and economic progress, called a special closed session to hear testimony. The Greek government complied by sending several heavily guarded ex-prisoners to the hearings in Strasbourg —but only after ordering them to deny all allegations of torture.

The ploy backfired when two of the witnesses escaped their security chaperons and took refuge with the Norwegian delegation to the Council. Next day, Pantelis Marketakis, 33, and Konstantine Meletis, 38, testified before the commission, and later related to the press what they had said.

Military and civilian security officials in Greece, they claimed, were regularly using “medieval tortures” on prisoners. Marketakis, a member of an anti-junta resistance organization in Crete, described beatings with sandbags (which leave no marks) and with plaited steel wire. Meletis, a member of the leftist Greek Patriotic Front, spoke of the fa-langa, in which the victim is strung up head down, then has the soles of his feet beaten. “If you refuse to confess or if you pass out,” said Meletis, “they set you down with numbed feet on a cement floor on which cold water has been poured.” But the worst torture, by his account, is electric shock treatment applied to various parts of the body, including the genitals. After four days of such torture, Meletis said, he broke down and told his interrogators what they wanted to hear.

Earlier, similarly grim testimony had come from Actress Kitty Arseni, accused by the Athens regime of having been an intermediary for the recording of a “freedom poem” by Composer Mikis Theodorakis. In Athens, a government spokesman announced angrily that Greece would boycott further commission hearings this week if the sessions were not kept secret. Marketakis and Meletis, meanwhile, were granted permanent residence in Norway.

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