Leftist parties lambast 'blasphemy' arrest

Democratic Left, one of the parties in Greece's tripartite coalition government, and main opposition party Syriza on Tuesday lambasted authorities for the arrest of a 27-year-old man in Evia on blasphemy charges.

The man was arrested on Monday in the village of Psahna, Evia, on suspicion of being behind a Facebook page satirizing a dead Orthodox priest who some faithful believe had uncanny powers of perception.

The suspect, who was not named, is alleged to have maintained the page mocking Father or Elder (Geron) Paisios. The page was named Father Pastitsios after a traditional pasta-based dish.

The 27-year-old is being charged with blasphemy and insulting the late priest -- who has become a cult figure among some Orthodox Christians over the past few months after allegedly foreseeing Greece?s economic crisis -- and was due to face a prosecutor to answer to the charges on Tuesday.

Police said that they made the arrest after ?thousands? of complaints about the page from various parts of the world reached the electronic crimes squad.

Critics, however, point out that the police took action a few days after far-right Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) raised the issue in Parliament.

Democratic Left on Tuesday issued a statement accusing the state of pandering to the ultra-nationalist party and of being «ready to respond quickly to the edicts of Golden Dawn,» saying that the arrest is of a «fundamentalist nature, which is not appropriate for a European, democratic state, but, rather, for theocratic regimes.»

Democratic Left went on to say that the arrest is a violation of free speech and an «intolerant, Medieval act.»

The party also demanded that the blasphemy law be abolished.

Syriza for its part accused the government for reacting to «charlatanism,» with MP Dimitris Papadimoulis expressing his desire to be called as a witness in defense of the 27-year-old.

Syriza also issued an official statement in reaction to the arrest, calling it a «blatant act of violation of free speech by authorized officers of the state, who should be protecting it like the apple of their eye.»

The statement went on to say that it is «unacceptable that in Greece of 2012 a citizen is arrested over satirical commentary on a personal page of a social networking website.»

The arrest has also been heavily criticized on Facebook and other social media as being an unacceptable case of censorship unbefitting a modern European country.

Opponents of the man?s arrest began a campaign on Twitter under the keyword #FreeGeronPastitsios.