ATHENS (Reuters) – A Greek court has acquitted three activists detained in October 2021 after unfurling banners at the Athens Acropolis opposing the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, their lawyer and activists said on Thursday.
Those acquitted were 19-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang, 22-year-old Hong Kongese-American Joey Siu and a 35-year old Vietnamese-American activist.
They had staged a brief protest at the Acropolis in the Greek capital, holding up a Tibetan flag and a banner reading “Free Hong Kong – Revolution” at a scaffolding surrounding part of the monument.
They were accused of attempting to pollute, damage, and distort a historical monument and faced up to five years in prison. They were acquitted on all charges.
“It was a great day for human rights’ activists in Tibet, Hong Kong and around the globe, and although it was a highly politically sensitive case, in the end it was justice and the rule of law that have prevailed,” their lawyer Alexis Anagnostakis told Reuters.
The protest took place hours before a dress rehearsal of the torch-lighting ceremony for the Games in Greece’s Olympia, site of the ancient Olympics.
Justice Abroad, a UK-based advocacy group that provided assistance, welcomed the acquittal. “Today’s result is a huge victory for the right to peaceful protest and for the Tibetan and Hong Kongese people, said Michael Polak, director of the group.”
Rights groups and U.S. lawmakers had called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games and relocate the event unless China ended what the United States deems ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.
Chinese authorities have been accused of facilitating forced labour by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.
China denies wrongdoing, saying it has set up vocational training centres to combat extremism.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Michele Kambas; Editing by Bill Berkrot)