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Austrian author acquitted on appeal in blasphemy case

(IPA/WiPC/IFEX) - The following is a 20 April 2005 joint IPA - WiPC press release:

Publishers, writers welcome acquittal on appeal of author in Greek blasphemy case

On 13 April 2005, in a famous blasphemy case, the Court of Appeal of Athens, reversing the judgment of the Court of First Instance, acquitted the author of The Life of Jesus, Mr. Gerhard Haderer. It also ordered the return of the confiscated books to Oxy Publishing S.A, the Greek publisher of The Life of Jesus. The IPA and International PEN welcome Haderer's acquittal, which it had called for.

Gerhard Haderer was tried alongside his Greek publisher, and four booksellers, on charges of blasphemy. The trial started in December 2003, and had temporarily concluded in first instance, on 18 January 2005, with the conviction of Haderer to a six-month suspended sentence and the acquittal of the publisher and booksellers.

The Life of Jesus is an illustrated book with humorous intent. The Greek courts had initially considered its depiction of Jesus as a hippie as defamation and ridicule. The book has been published in a number of other countries without controversy or judicial action.

Karin Clark, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN, says: "The decision of the Court of First Instance flew in the face of international standards, guaranteeing freedom of expression and to which the Greek government has pledged its commitment. Under those circumstances, we welcome the acquittal of author Gerhard Haderer."

Lars Grahn, Chair of the Freedom to Publish Committee of the International Publishers' Association, adds: "The Life of Jesus is back on Greek bookshelves. This is a most welcome development, which shows Greece's commitment to Freedom of Expression."

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