ECHR finds Greece guilty of violating right to presumed innocence in Konstas case

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday unanimously found Greece guilty of violating the right of former Panteion University president Dimitris Konstas to be presumed innocent until found guilty, as well as his right to an effective remedy, as laid out in the European Convention of Human Rights.
A former ambassador, minister and university professor, Konstas was found guilty of misappropriating university funds by a first-instance court and initially sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. A final verdict on his case is still pending before the Athens Court of Appeals.

The ECHR verdict against Greece was based on public statements made by the country's former prime minister Costas Karamanlis and two ministers in his government at the time, Sotiris Hatzigakis and Petros Doukas. These had referred to the former professor's "indisputable guilt" in the Panteion embezzlement case.

The decision, which was not final, ordered Greece to pay Konstas 12,000 euro in compensation for moral damages and 10,000 euro in court costs. The court noted that representatives of the state had an obligation to show particular restraint and to not state that a person was guilty before he had been proved guilty according to the law. They also found that this discretion had to be extended to appeal proceedings, even if someone had been found guilty at first instance.

Concerning the statements of Sotiris Hatzigakis, who had been justice minister at the time, the court found that these seemed to have prejudged the pending decision of the higher-level court, encouraging the Court of Appeal to uphold the judgement of the lower court.

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