Judges refuse to answer to parliamentary committee

The rocky relationship between the government and the judiciary took a turn for the worse on Tuesday when Greece?s top judge refused to appear before a parliamentary committee examining the slow dispensation of justice.

Supreme Court President Giorgos Kalamidas sent a letter to Miltiadis Papaioannou, the head of Parliament?s transparency and institutions committee, to explain that he was turning down an invitation to face questioning from the panel. A few days ago, Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes had also rejected a request to appear before the committee.

In both cases, the judicial officials argued that the constitution places the judiciary on the same level as Parliament and, as such, judges and prosecutors should not be called to account by MPs.

Papaioannou had argued that the deputies were not attempting to question the status of the judicial officials. ?It is self-evident that the invitation for an organized discussion does not challenge the independence nor the equal standing foreseen by the constitution,? he said.

Tension has been brewing between the government and the judiciary for several months after Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis publicly questioned the effectiveness of judges and then drew up several laws aimed at speeding up trials and introducing checks on how courts were performing. In addition to this, the government has cut some of the supplementary pay that judges received, further enraging the justices.

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