OPINION

Justified reaction

The accused are innocent until proven guilty. This rule applies to Achilleas Zisis, the Supreme Court’s vice president who is currently facing misdemeanor charges. It was on these grounds that some criticized the decision of the Supreme Court and Council of State presidents to leave the house when Zisis stepped up to the podium to welcome the archbishop on the feast day of Dionysius Areopagite, the patron saint of judges. For the same reason, some criticized the absence of Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras and accused him of influencing the judicial process. The criticism should actually be turned on its head: Should a senior judge under investigation be allowed to perform his official duties? Shouldn’t he abstain until the final verdict? Shouldn’t his insistence on exercising his duties as a judge and union leader be read as a bid to tamper with the judicial process? Senior state functionaries have little right to invoke the innocent-until-proven-guilty principle, which was introduced to protect ordinary people against arbitrary state power. Where a mandate is awarded by the people, good reputation is of fundamental importance. When this is dented, officials ought to step down. Unfortunately, such sensitivity is hard to find. State functionaries charged with corruption cling to their political posts. The same applies to accused judges, corrupt clerics and a new genre of journalists who claim to do good when in fact they are intending to defame all principles with a mix of audacity, provocation and bullying. How can we curb the insensitivity and impunity of degenerate officials? Tolerance and indifference won’t do. The justice minister and court presidents were right to stay away from the ceremony. They answered Zisis’s irresponsibility by displaying the dignity mandated by their office.