The Council of State’s plenary session on Tuesday upheld appeals lodged by six television channels against a recent government auction of TV licenses, which left some channels without permits, as a rift between the Greek judiciary and the government appeared to grow.
In a decision that went against the advice of the court’s rapporteur, 16 judges voted to uphold the appeals against the auction with nine rejecting the appeals.
The unexpected move paves the way for the judges to discuss whether a law drafted by State Minister Nikos Pappas, which allowed the auction to reduce the number of nationwide TV licenses to four, is in line with the Constitution.
If the judges take issue with the law, the government will probably be forced to reverse the competition and return fees paid to the state by winners of the auction.
The discussion that preceded Tuesday's vote was extremely tense, according to sources, amid anger over media reports casting aspersions about the private life of a top judge and over a subsequent decision by authorities to investigate the judge based on those reports.
Sources indicated that many of the judges in attendance were furious about the reports, seeing them as a type of blackmail, an attempt to influence judges who are currently handling serious cases.
Earlier this month, the president of the country’s highest administrative court, Nikos Sakellariou, ordered the suspension of a plenary session on the TV channels’ appeals, citing “efforts to create a certain climate.”
On Tuesday some judges at the session noted that his tactics had backfired, sources indicated.
Earlier in the day, in an unusually strong-worded statement, the union of judges and prosecutors hit out at media reports making lewd claims about a vice president of the Council of State.
The union referred to a “particularly disturbing phenomenon reminiscent of methods used by fascist regimes.” It also condemned a “new network of corruption” which, it said, included “the sensationalist press and financial and other interests.”
The union added that the reports in question “have nothing to do with the public interest” and that all they serve is to “compromise and distort the private life of an esteemed judge and to feed an ever voracious sensationalist press and the part of public opinion influenced by it.”