The Novartis bribery case did not make the big bang some people had wished for, as it became quickly apparent that the political part of the affair was nothing more than a badly designed setup that seems to have already been forgotten.
It should not be forgotten, though, because we should be asking ourselves what would have happened if the political authority had been successful in its attempt. In this case, two former prime ministers and several leading opposition figures would have ended up in prison on trumped-up charges.
The government’s apparent failure at implementing the strategy of its controversial alternate health minister, Pavlos Polakis – throwing as much mud as possible at your rivals and even getting them locked up – is not something that we should be pleased about, because it is basically an attempt to trample on civil liberties and democracy itself. If they had succeeded in dragging Antonis Samaras, Panagiotis Pikrammenos, Evangelos Venizelos, Andreas Loverdos, Dimitris Avramopoulos or Adonis Georgiadis before a prosecutor and jailing them on trumped-up charges based on secret witnesses that were being blackmailed, then what hope would an ordinary citizen have against a government with the hallmarks of a hardline regime?
The Novartis affair was not an isolated incident. The “Athens trials” were modeled after the Moscow Trials, while similar practices were also used to target former prime minister Costas Simitis and ex-minister Michalis Chrysochoidis. Then there’s the former chief of the Hellenic Statistical Service, Andreas Georgiou, who was accused of triggering the crisis by publishing the truth about the Greek economic deficit.
In all these cases, the “Polakis dogma,” which is actually the strategy of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, failed. But there is one case where it succeeded and that is with Roula Kourakou and her husband Yiannos Papantoniou. The former was released on bail after spending five months in Korydallos Prison, but the latter is still there, eight months later, without having gone to trial, without any evidence to back up the charges against him and despite his written consent giving access to investigators to look into any bank accounts he may have, anywhere in the world.
Papantoniou is still in prison, as terrorists with life sentences are eyeing the exit door. The above examples are not the main issue, of course. The main issue is that these cases show SYRIZA did more harm to the justice system than any other government in Greece since the restoration of democracy, reminding us that the health and integrity of justice is something we should never take for granted.