NEWS

Draft dodging on borrowed time

Defense chiefs called on draft dodgers to turn themselves in or risk being revealed by an investigation that is under way into some 30,000 men who have not carried out their military service. The military began a probe in October 2004 into all conscripts who have been relieved of their duties on medical grounds or have not reported for duty. The investigation was launched after authorities uncovered an army doctor was involved in issuing forged documents to draftees. «We are looking into everything,» said Deputy Defense Minister Yiannis Lambropoulos. «Draft dodgers have to realize that they can not escape from the long arm of the law. The best thing they can do is report for duty and they will be treated compassionately.» Lambropoulos told Kathimerini that the investigation has been hampered by the lack of computer records at draft offices. He added that between 2000 and 2004 the number of people who had not done their military service increased by an average of 17.2 percent each year. This number – more than 30,000 at one point – dropped by 4 percent in 2006. Lambropoulos said that 2,370 suspected draft dodgers faced a military court last year to answer charges that they skipped their military service. He said that almost 1,900 will do the same during the first half of this year alone. «There has been a dramatic drop in the number of conscripts who are being excused on medical grounds,» said Lambropoulos. He said that the cases of 4,450 men who had avoided doing their military service on medical grounds between 1997 to 2004 had been re-examined – 75 percent of them were correctly excused, the deputy minister said. The remaining 25 percent are being examined further. A doctor was fired from a military hospital in September 2004 after being linked to a ring issuing forged exemption certificates but Lambropoulos believes that this kind of activity has been stamped out. «You can never rule anything out but I do not think that there is such a ring in operation today,» the deputy minister said.