NEWS

Amnesty calls for mutinous sailor’s release

Amnesty International called on Greece yesterday to release a Greek navy officer jailed for refusing to go on a mission last year because he opposed the war in Iraq. Seaman Apprentice Giorgos Monastiriotis, 24, was sentenced on September 13 by a naval court to three years and four months’ imprisonment for desertion. He is serving his sentence at a prison in Corinth. Citing reasons of conscience, Monastiriotis refused to follow his unit on deployment in the Persian Gulf in May 2003 as part of the NATO-led «Operation Enduring Freedom.» Greece has no troops deployed in Iraq. «Amnesty International considers Giorgos Monastiriotis to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for his conscientious opposition to participating in the recent war in Iraq and calls for his immediate and unconditional release,» Gerasimos Kouvaras of the human rights watchdog’s Greek office told The Associated Press. Amnesty’s head office in London also issued a statement yesterday calling for the sailor’s immediate release. The government did not offer any immediate comment. Kouvaras said the group plans to meet the seaman in the coming weeks, adding that the campaign for his release will be intensified. Monastiriotis, with the navy on a five-year contract, is the first Greek professional soldier punished in connection with the war in Iraq. He has not been discharged, and is likely to be required to serve the remainder of his term in the navy following his release. In a statement last May, he said he considered the Persian Gulf mission to be «collaboration in murdering the Iraqi people.» He added, «I refuse on grounds of conscience to participate in or contribute toward by any means the relentless massacre of the Iraqi people, in a war that is not finishing… children are still being killed.» Anti-war demonstrations were common in Athens and other parts of Greece during the US-led invasion. Greece does not recognize the right of conscientious objection for volunteers or conscripts in the military. Amnesty says Greece should amend a seven-year-old law for alternative civilian service, saying it is punitive. Amnesty considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses to perform service in the armed forces or any other direct or indirect participation in wars or armed conflicts.