The clash between the government and the judiciary took another twist on Monday as the head of the Council of State, Nikos Sakellariou, called for verbal attacks on judicial officials to stop immediately.
In an unprecedented public statement, Sakellariou said that the judiciary had been on the receiving end of “unprovoked” attacks and called for the tension that has been building between the government and judges, as well as prosecutors, to be eased.
“I call on all involved parties to show the necessary self-restraint before the particularly serious institutional crisis that has been caused by these attacks becomes uncontrollable, which would have incalculable consequences for social peace and cohesion,” said Sakellariou.
The president of Greece’s highest administrative court said that he was not only speaking in this capacity but also as the country’s most senior high-ranking judge. He said that he intentionally delivered his comments on the 43rd anniversary of the restoration of democracy following the military dictatorship.
The coalition has over the last few months been engaged in a running battle with judges, resulting last weekend in the exchange of angry statements between the Union of Judges and Prosecutors and the government. The former claimed that the situation in Greece was beginning to resemble Poland and Turkey. Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos accused the union on Monday of acting like New Democracy’s press office.
Sakellariou said that judges had received “unjustified” and “insulting” criticism. He also called on judges to be more reserved in their reaction to such attacks. “Justice responds to extreme behavior only by its servants executing their duties to the fullest,” he said.
In his statement marking the day the junta fell, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis claimed that it is the first time since 1974 that Greece’s institutions are being threatened in this manner. “The separation of powers, which is the cornerstone of the rule of law, is being directly breached by a government that is trying to manipulate and control the justice system. A government that considers the justice system to be an institutional obstacle to its plans,” he said.