Greek arrested for online religious taunts

Author: AAP
Date Published: 09/25/2012

POLICE in Greece have arrested a 27-year-old man for hosting a Facebook page taunting a late Orthodox monk with a cult following.

The police on Monday said the man was arrested on the island of Evia on Friday after the state cybercrime unit received ”thousands of online complaints … from various countries around the world”.

The Facebook page mocking Elder Paisios was dedicated to ‘Elder Pastitsios’, a reference to pastitsio, a popular Greek dish of pasta and ground beef.

It showed a monk with his face covered in pastitsio slop.

The police said the page, which was yanked off the web and unavailable on Monday, contained ”blasphemy and insults against Elder Paisios and Orthodox Christianity” in general.

The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party had filed a complaint in parliament on the issue last week.

Elder Paisios, a monk who lived in the monastic enclave of Mount Athos in northern Greece and died in 1994 at the age of 70, has a large cult following in the country attributed to his alleged prophetic powers and teachings.

According to his followers, he foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and Greece’s economic crisis.

In July, the Facebook page moderator described how he had sent to Orthodox and nationalist blogs a fictitious story about a drug addict saved by a Paisios miracle as he lay dying in hospital.

The tale was uncritically reproduced online and even ended up on the front page of a nationalist newspaper with over 3000 readers, the hoaxer said.

The arrest was slammed by many Greek bloggers as censorship, and a group titled Free Geron (Elder) Pastitsios sprang up on Twitter.

A new Facebook page dedicated to an ‘Elder Parisios’ appeared as well, adorned with the caricature of a monk with the Eiffel Tower for a head.

”Remind me again, which country gave rise to (ancient Greek satirist) Aristophanes?” one user posted on Twitter, while others compared Greece to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Blasphemy in Greece is punishable by up to two years in prison.

Some 90 per cent of Greeks are baptised into the Orthodox faith, but the Church of Greece – which is seen as excessively wealthy and lacking in motivation to help the poor – has lost its popularity in recent years.