Actors and the producer of a Greek play that depicted Jesus Christ and his apostles as gay have been charged with blasphemy, court officials said on Friday.
A production of Corpus Christi in Athens was cancelled this month after weeks of almost daily protests outside the theatre by priests and right-wing groups, including deputies from the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party. Charges of "insulting religion" and "malicious blasphemy" have been filed after Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus lodged a lawsuit against those involved in the play, the officials said. The play's director told Reuters he was stunned that prosecutors had chosen to go after him rather than pursue tax evaders and others blamed for driving Greece to near-bankruptcy.
"What I see is that there are people who have robbed the country blind who are not in jail and the prosecutor turns against art," Albanian-born Laertis Vasiliou said. If found guilty, Vasiliou and the other defendants could face several months in prison. A trial date has not yet been set. Dozens of demonstrators, including some from Golden Dawn, blocked the entrance of the theatre and clashed with police on the night of its premiere last month.
Bearded black-robed priests holding crosses were shown on television tearing up posters promoting the play. The Orthodox Church is an integral part of Greek society and a powerful institution. Golden Dawn, which entered parliament this year for the first time in its history, has been increasingly flexing its muscle and polls show its hard line against immigrants and corrupt politicians is boosting its popularity. Last month, Greek state television came under fire from the main opposition party and critics for editing a gay kiss out of the primetime premiere of British period drama "Downton Abbey".