NEWS

Were bishops victims of extortionists?

The judicial investigation into allegations of widespread blackmail by some journalists and extreme right-wingers appears set to widen, with the public prosecutor expected to call on four bishops to testify soon as to whether they were victims of extortion. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, said yesterday that she would testify if called to do so. «If the prosecutor summons me, I will go, of course,» she said while on a visit to Berlin. She and her industrialist husband, Theodoros, prompted the investigation when – last summer – they gave Prime Minister Costas Simitis an excerpt from the diary of the industrialist’s uncle, Dimitris Angelopoulos, written in 1985, a year before his murder by the November 17 terrorist group. The excerpt said that extreme rightist publisher Grigoris Michalopoulos had told the victim that he had intervened with N17 and had him removed from the hit list. «My family, Theodoros and I, respect institutions and the judiciary and, despite the dastardly attacks that we are facing, have decided to be patient because we have faith in institutions. The truth will out,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said. She and her husband have been attacked verbally by – among others – Michalopoulos, who denies the charges of extortion. Several leading industrialists have been summoned by prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos to testify in his investigation into whether there is any truth in the allegations. But the investigation is widening following the careful reading of fringe publications in which individuals came in for undue praise or faced threats of exposure for some or other misdeed. This resulted in the suspicion that four bishops may have been targeted by extortionists. Archbishop Christodoulos, however, said he had no information. «I and the Holy Synod know nothing of this. We read about it in the papers and this is, I assume, irresponsible,» he said. It is highly improbable that any purported blackmail of bishops was tied to the threat of N17. It is more likely to have resulted from jockeying for power within the Church.