Conscientious objector Lazaros Petromelides
Use this form to send the letter below to the relevant authority (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, George A. Papandreou). You can add your own notes in a separate box after the standard text, if you wish.
You must include a name, address, and email address; a copy will be sent to you with a cc to the WRI office (so we have a record of how many email letters have been sent out for this particular case).
Dear George A. Papandreou, Minister of Foreign Affairs
I am deeply concerned about the trial of conscientious objector Lazaros Petromelides, who will be tried for the second time for the same office on 18 September 2003.
Lazaros Petromelides applied for the status of conscientious objector in 1998. He was accepted, and called up for a substitute service 7.5 times longer than the military service he would have had to serve (30 months of substitute service instead of 4 months of military service). As a conscientious objector, the length of his substitute service was calculated based on the full time of military service, although he only would have had to serve 4 months instead of 18 months due to his age and the fact that he is the father of a child.
Lazaros Petromelides refused to accept this, and did not start his substitute service. He was arrested in April 1999 and sentenced to 4 years in prison. In June 1999 the military appeal court released him on bail, and postponed a decision due to promised changes of the Greek law on conscientious objection.
Petromelides was finally sentenced to 20 months in prison on 12 June 2003, but the sentence was suspended.
However, shortly after his release on bail in June 1999 Lazaros Petromelides was again called up for military service (as he refused to begin his substitute service, his CO status was revoked), which he refused. A new arrest warrant was issued for "insubordination".
Lazaros Petromelides now again faces trial, on 18 September 2003, at the Navy Martial Court of Thessaloniki. This second trial for what is basically the same "offence" - refusing to bear arms - is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, and against UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2002/45, which states that states should refrain from using the judicial system to force conscientious objectors to change their convictions.
I urge you to use your influence so that the Greek judicial system complies with European human rights standards, and the prosecution case will be thrown out. It is high time that Greece recognises the right to conscientious objection according to the standards set out by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the European Union.