German historian Heinz Richter on Wednesday expressed surprise after being acquitted by a court in Rethymno, Crete, of charges that his 2013 book “Operation Mercury: The Invasion of Crete” denied Nazi war crimes and defamed the Cretan people.
“I still can’t believe it entirely,” Richter told Kathimerini a few hours after hearing the news of the verdict, which he was unable to attend due to health reasons.
Fifteen months after a Cretan prosecutor filed the country’s first case under recent anti-racism legislation against the writer, the court ruled that the case not only lacked merit, but also that the article of the law that was cited is unconstitutional.
“I didn’t expect it, to be honest. I was afraid that they had some trick in store, that something would happen. But I got some courage after the prosecutor changed his positions last week,” he said, referring to the prosecutor’s recommendation for acquittal on the grounds that Richter did not appear to want to instigate hate against the Cretan people.
In a rare move, the judge commented on his decision, saying that Article 2 of the anti-racism law is “incompatible with the Constitution and European law, and as such is ineffective and inapplicable.”
He added that penalizing denial of events that have been defined as war crimes by Parliament is in violation of the right to free academic thought and goes against the separation of powers between the executive and the judicial, and the presumption of innocence.
“There are people in Greece who believe in myths, confusing them with historical truth. Even today, children at schools in Crete are taught these myths,” said Richter, whose book recounts the events of the 1941 Battle of Crete.