Greek officials reacted to the passing of former president Christos Sartzetakis in a hospital in Athens early Thursday morning.
Sartzetakis, aged 92, had been treated for pneumonia in the intensive care unit of Laiko General Hospital since December 4, after developing acute respiratory failure. He died at 2.45 this morning.
In 1963 he became widely known when, as a young judge in Thessaloniki, he conducted the investigation into the murder of the left-wing member of Parliament, Grigoris Lambrakis, by two right-wing extremists. The killing provoked mass protests and led to a political crisis in Greece. Sartzetakis presided over the case and helped solve it, despite intense pressure from the right-wing government of the time, the judicial leadership and the country’s security apparatus to cover up the crime.
President Katerina Sakellaropoulou spoke of a “principled servant of Justice who, in difficult times for the country and its democracy, handled as an investigator the case of the murder of Lambrakis with exemplary independence and judicial ethos, [and] paying…a heavy price in the years of the junta.”
Later, as President of the country, “he honored the office with conscientiousness, dedication and a high sense of responsibility in the exercise of his duties,” she added, extending her condolences to his family.
In his own message, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sartzetakis became known for “the denunciation of unconstitutional mechanisms in the Lambraki case. Those who, unfortunately, came to the fore with the seven-year dictatorship, leading to his own persecution.”
Mitsotakis recongized that his party, New Democracy, did not support him in his successful bid for the Presidency in 1985, but “cooperated with him, respecting his constitutional role.”
Movement for Change (KINAL) leader Nikos Androulakis expressed his condolences to the late president’s family, noting that “he was a patriot who consistently served the public interest, Justice and Democracy.”
Androulakis recalled Sartzetakis’ investigation of the Lambrakis murder, adding that his stint as president, after a proposal by socialist PASOK, “contributed to the democratization of institutions with the 1986 Constitutional Review.”
Former socialist premier Costas Simitis said Sartzetakis supported democracy “bravely and stubbornly,” in adverse conditions and expressed his condolences to his family.