Greek Art Curator Faces Prison

News from Greece, via the BBC:

A Greek court has adjourned until early next year the trial of an art curator charged with publicly insulting the eastern Orthodox Church.

Christos Ioakimidis could be jailed for up to five years for showing a painting combining Christian and sexual imagery.

The authorities in Athens removed the work – showing an erect penis next to a Christian cross – following a complaint by a far-right party leader.

…The case against him stems from a painting by Belgian artist Thierry de Cordier.

It was taken down after party leader Georges Karatzaferis lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court.

He denounced the work as the most obscene, immoral and shameless painting he had ever seen.

The BBC is being a bit coy. IFEX gives Karatzaferis’s full statement from 2003:

…9 December 2003, Greece’s extreme-right party leader George Karatzaferis protested that Belgian artist Thierry de Cordier’s “Asperges Me (Dry Sin)” painting was “the most obscene, immoral, shameless painting I had ever seen.” On the right of the canvas was a cross, propped against a wall; on the left a fully erect penis. Karatzaferis saw on the canvas that semen was dripping from the crucifix.

But if that wasn’t enough:

Even worse, “the penis, that thing, looked circumcised,” added the notoriously anti-Semitic politician.

The painting itself can be seen here (not work-safe). The title, Asperges Me, means “you shall purge me” in Latin, and refers both to Psalm 50 and to the opening of the Latin mass (I assume the expression also appears in Greek in the Orthodox Eucharist, but I can’t say for sure).

The prosecution is a particular success for Karatzaferis, whose LAOS political party began in 2001. LAOS stands for “Laikos Orthodoxos Synagermos”, and is translated as “The People’s Orthodox Rally” or “The Populist Orthodox Rally”, or “The People’s Orthodox Alarm”. Just last year Karatzaferis was part of the campaign to censor Oliver Stone’s Alexander. As the AFP reported:

“They wouldn’t have dared make a movie with such (homosexual) reproaches about Moses or Solomon,” said Yiorgos Karatzaferis, President and European Parliament member for far-right, xenophobic party LAOS.

In 2002 Karatzaferis opposed a Holocaust memorial on Rhodes; the memorial was vandalised days before he visited the island. According to a 2004 profile on EUbusiness:

Karatzaferis, 57, has been accused by various human rights groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish lobby group, of holding “racist” and “anti-semitic” speeches. In daily shows from his nationwide television station, Karatzaferis accuses immigrants, notably from Albania, of stealing jobs from Greeks.

…Karatzaferis, a strong supporter of Greece’s Orthodox Christian tradition, opposed Western intervention against Serbia in the 1999 Kosovo war.

Karatzaferis, who won 4.1% of the vote that year, denies that he is anti-democratic or belongs to the far right. I suppose the latter at least could be true: Christos Ioakimidis faces prison for displaying a painting; in Russia, exhibitors have faced the same fate; and in Italy, trials for both defaming Islam and Roman Catholicism are underway. Karatzerferis’s demands for censorship in the name of religion appear to place him increasingly in the mainstream…


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