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Justice and reforms after airmen were given criminal convictions for their religious activities

Larissis and Others v. Greece  | 1998

Justice and reforms after airmen were given criminal convictions for their religious activities

Background

Dimitrios Larissis, Savvas Mandalarides and Ioannis Sarandis were all officers in the Greek air force. They were also members of the Pentecostal Church, whose members have a duty to talk to others about their understanding of the Christian faith and encourage them to join their church.

All three airmen were prosecuted for evangelising their religion, which was treated as a criminal offence. They were all convicted and given suspended prison sentences of over a year.

The men took their case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that it had been unfair to convict them simply for discussing their religious faith with others.  

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court ruled that it may have been appropriate to discipline the officers for promoting their religion to soldiers under their command, but their criminal prosecution for discussing their faith in ordinary civilian life had violated their right to religious freedom. 

Follow-up

The law was changed so that the soldiers in the case could erase the convictions from their criminal records.

As a result of this case and others, the Greek government made sure that no similar prosecutions would be carried out in future. Reporting on the issue six years after the judgment, the Greek government confirmed that no such prosecutions had been carried out.