INTERVIEW: Greek journalist sued for writing about the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia

August 5, 2009

Interviewer: Daniel Toljaga
Congress of North American Bosniaks

Picture: Takis Michas

Picture: Stavros Vitalis

On 27 July 2009 Mr. Stavros Vitalis, representing the Panhellenic Macedonian Front, filed a libel suit against the acclaimed journalist Mr. Takis Michas, best known for his authorship of the book “Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic’s Serbia.” He is suing the journalist for describing- in the daily “Eleftherotypia” – Greek mercenaries as “paramilitaries who took part in the slaughter in Srebrenica.”

Mr. Vitalis is one of the leading Greek volunteers who have admitted taking part in the Srebrenica genocide. But, that’s not how he sees it.

In a statement distributed to the media, he claimed that the Greek volunteers who fought in Bosnia under the command of General Mladic were there in order to help the Serbs “who were being slaughtered by international gangs that were also stealing their houses, their country and their dignity.”

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Mr. Michas, thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview. To begin with, what is the Panhellenic Macedonian Front that has filed this suit against you through its representative Mr. Vitalis?

TAKIS MICHAS: It is a Greek nationalist political organization which also includes socialists and conservative former politicians. Up until now its central campaign theme has been its advocacy of the view that Macedonia along with everything related to it (history, symbols, etc.) is exclusively Greek.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: What exactly does Mr. Vitalis hope to achieve with this lawsuit?

TAKIS MICHAS: Bearing in mind that Karadzic’s trial will also be taking place next year, what they will be hoping is to create an alternative debate in which the substance of what happened at Srebrenica will be called into question. In other words, while the world is trying the war crimes perpetrated at Srebrenica, in Greece they will be putting the critics of the war crimes at Srebrenica on trial!

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Do you have any comments about the lawsuit and the press statements Mr. Vitalis has made?

TAKIS MICHAS: Yes. First of all Mr. Vitalis explicitly admits that Greeks (i.e. himself) took part in the planning and execution of the Serb “re-occupation” (as he calls it) of Srebrenica. As he says in his press statement “I was present with a group of senior Serb officers in all the operations for the re-occupation of Srebrenica by the Serbs”.

Secondly, Mr Vitalis admits that the recruitment of Greek volunteers for the war against the legitimate government of Bosnia took place with the implicit approval of the leading Greek politicians Andreas Papandreou and (to a lesser extent) Constantine Mitsotakis. As he puts it:

“The whole of Greece knows that the Greek volunteers had the broad support of Greek society as a whole as well as the support of politicians, mainly belonging to PASOK, because of the warm friendship between Andreas Papandreou and Radovan Karadzic. They also enjoyed the support of New Democracy, through the friendly diplomatic initiatives of Constantine Mitsotakis.”

This reinforces the point I have repeatedly made, namely that Greek support for the Serb war effort was not only moral, economic, diplomatic and political but also military.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Was Mr. Vitalis present during and after the fall of Srebrenica when Greek paramilitaries hoisted the Greek flag over the town?

TAKIS MICHAS: Well in his own statement he said that together with high ranking Serb officers he took part in all the operations that dealt with the “reoccupation” (as he calls it) of Srebrenica. Now as to whether he was physically present in the hoisting of the flag this is something that only Mr. Mladic knows (and perhaps Mr. Karadzic)!

DANIEL TOLJAGA: It is interesting that he publicly admitted being present himself “in all the military operations” related to the “re-occupation” of Srebrenica. Do you have any idea why Mr. Vitalis has not been investigated for possible war crimes?

TAKIS MICHAS: Because, as I have shown in my book, in Greece Serb actions during the war in Bosnia are not regarded as “crimes” but as “heroic deeds”. This applies to Srebrenica as well. No Greek government has made any statement at any time during the last 15 years explicitly condemning the killings at Srebrenica – this is a unique state of affairs for a European country.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: In the words of U.N. Judge Theodor Meron, who served as the President of the ICTY, Serbs – and I quote – “targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica.” In your opinion, is Mr. Vitalis fully aware that the military operations he took part in resulted in the summary killings of more than 8,000 and the ethnic cleansing of approximately 30,000 people in July 1995? Is he aware that he took part in genocide?

TAKIS MICHAS: According to his own admissions, yes. However, just like Holocaust deniers, these people refuse to accept that mass killings took place in Srebrenica.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Your book revealed for the first time the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia. Why has Mr. Vitalis waited so many years since the publication of your book to file a suit?

TAKIS MICHAS: This is an interesting question. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that as I have hinted in other articles I am now in possession of confidential diplomatic documents that show the Greek authorities for the first time admitting the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia. Possibly they think that by putting pressure on me now they will prevent me publishing these documents. But this of course is only one explanation. There may be others.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Mr. Vitalis has claimed that the operations of the Greek volunteers “were widely endorsed by Greek society because of the warm friendship that existed between Andreas Papandreou and Radovan Karadzic.” To what extent did this friendship suggest that the government may have been involved?

TAKIS MICHAS: Obviously it involves government in the sense of knowing, tolerating and endorsing the open recruitment of Greek citizens with the aim of fighting against the legally recognized government of Bosnia. It certainly implicates the government of PASOK under Andreas Papandreou.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: I remember, and you also referred to this in your book, that leading Greek judges had publicly refused to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Considering that your right to a fair trial may be seriously impaired by the extreme ultranationalist atmosphere in Greece and the fact that Mr. Vitalis has announced that he plans to call leading Greek nationalist politicians as witnesses, I would like to know whether you intend to seek support from prominent international organizations that specialize in the protection of journalistic freedom?

TAKIS MICHAS: I will certainly be trying to spread the word. Judging from the lawsuit they have filed against me, I guess that from now on they will also be making the glorification of the Serb war effort in Bosnia one of their campaign themes.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Are you worried about the forthcoming trial?

TAKIS MICHAS: In any other European country this lawsuit would have been thrown out of court. But as I have said repeatedly Greece is not a normal European country. Given the spirit of extreme nationalism that permeates the country and the fact that Karadzic and Mladic are venerated as saints by the majority of the public and the political class, I have every reason to feel worried.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Thank you for taking part in this interview. We will be keeping a close eye on the progress of your case.

18 Responses to “INTERVIEW: Greek journalist sued for writing about the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia”

  1. Well, it is nothing new that official Greece was supported Serbian aggression in Bosnia. The case “Srebrenica” is still intriguing the world-wide public. The trial in ICTY against Karadzic hardly can provide some relevant information or more details about “Srebrenica slaughter”, as general Mladic is the key person. Let us see the incoming hearings. For me it is very interesting the statement from Mr. Michas, saying “…Greece is not a normal European country…” What does it mean “normal European Country”? This (ab)normal European Country has been treated as a “basic column in EU valuables” and this implies the question: What are valuables that EU is based on?

  2. visegrad92 Says:

    Musso, Karadzic was the number 1 political figure during the Bosnian Genocide so he will have to answer for his role. What Michas means when he says “normalan european country” is the fact that Greece is filled with religious nationalism, which exists in every corner of Greek society, including the courts so Michas will hardly get a fair trial. I recommend you read his book “Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic’s Serbia”.

  3. VISEGRAD92 I shall respond to your comment on English although I can do that on your language. My question about (ob)normal EU country was just rhetoric. I know what kind of country is Greece, or, it is better to say what kind of politic forces are governing that country. My point was the EU valuables, the EU politic toward Balkans. It can’t be forgotten the role of some representatives of s.c. “international community” in Srebrenica (and other) slaughter in Bosnia. Does Greece have wring attitude only for Bosnia or there are some other nations on the Balkans that are suffering from Greek an EU “principles and valuables”? Just rhetoric….

  4. visegrad92 Says:

    Along with most other European countries, Greece has quiet a lot of baggage when Bosnia is in question. The EU policy towards Bosnia failed in ’92. You will agree that there is a huge difference between bystanders and direct perpetrators.

  5. Many members of the international government bear their share of shame for what happened in Bosnia. The Major government in the UK was only too willing to let Milosevic re-establish “stability” and to help the privatisations that funded his hold on power. But I don’t think there were many outsiders who positively supported the Serbian aggression and Bosnian Serb regime.

  6. Sorry, I meant “the international community”

  7. The lawsuit against Mr. Michas is preposterous and unjustified. I have read his article, for which he was sued. There isn’t even one thing that he wrote in this article, which could be justifiably, legally, called slander.

    E.g. he did not name any specific individual, nor did he imply that _every_ Greek who went as a volunteer to Bosnia was a criminal. He only implied there is a strong probability that SOME paramilitaries from Greece, were PROBABLY involved in war crimes, this being a matter worth investigating.

    He cannot be blamed for expressing a desire that… the Law is applied!

    Meanwhile, in an old interview, of one specific Greek volunteer in a Greek magazine (probably “Tachydromos”), this volunteer was reported to have boasted that his unit was able to kill… 300 Muslims in 13 minutes!!!!!!!
    (I am actually looking for the original article, but the sources are many, quoting this, and they cannot all be lying).
    Now, if you think about it carefully and logically, this statement was in itself incriminating evidence, like a confession (if it wasn’t just boastful blood-thirsty exaggeration). It was not specified if the Muslims were unarmed or if they were civilians, of course… In most modern normal battles, it is impossible to kill 300 people in 13 minutes unless they are unarmed !

    Moreover, the Greek unit, if we believe the “kill-rate”, was a LETHAL weapon of genocide, itself. If it killed 300 people in 13 minutes, then by simple arithmetic it killed 900 people in 39 minutes, or 9000 people in 390 minutes. Therefore, it was able to achieve 1 Srebrenica massacre every six hours or so…

    My Greek article about Srebrenica has a link to this post, BTW.

  8. visegrad92 Says:

    Omadeon, thank you for your comment. Could you PLEASE find that article about the volunteer’s confession in killing 300 Muslims. We would really appreciate it if you could send us a translation of the article.

  9. I’ ve already sent an e-mail to th lady journalist who first mentioned it.
    But I do believe it’s “TAXYDROMOS” journal, 2004, some issue…

    NOT giving up. It’s a question of principles, now…

  10. Omadeon, that article also has a bearing on the argument that apologists have used to undermine the credibility of Drazen Erdemociv’s evidence – “Erdemović says 1,200 people, but do you know how much work that means? That would take at least two days. If they managed to kill that many in four hours, congratulations!”

  11. @Owen,
    @videgrad92
    Hi,
    My main source for this information is a respectable lady journalist and book-authorr, Mrs. Christianna Loupa, who is beyond doubt reliable, since e.g. she does not agree with either left-wing or right-wing extreme views in Greece, nor does she identify with Mr. Michas’ particular viewpoints. I sent her ane e-mail and she’ll probably answer after the holiday season (I’m leaving myself tomorrow, for a week or so).

    To cut a long story short, the article by Mrs. Loupa says the following (in
    English translation) (URL follows in my next comment):

    There were statements by individuals (Greek volunteers in Bosnia) with their FULL names, in a known Greek magazine, such as:
    (1) “We felt satisfied when we killed Muslims”,
    (2) “when we killed Muslims there were moments when we celebrated it, in order to mitigate the intensity of battle” (i.e. as a form of… relaxation)
    (3) “Muslims fought clumsily and we killed them by the tens, at a time”,
    (4) “in thirteen minutes we’d kill roughly three hundred of them”.

    Also they (the volunteers) admitted destroying a mosque in Srebrenica just to pass the time (!!!) and having a Serb commander there, who had spent many years of military service in the (French) Legion of Foreigners and he is WANTED till today as a war-criminal by the Hague International Court

    The original URL follows in my next comment, together with some more information about the possible original article, from the net.

    For the moment, if you are in contact with Srebrenica survivors and genocide experts, you can start by asking them a simple question:
    “WHAT army unit destroyed WHICH mosque in Srebrenica?”
    -Chances are (indeed it’s almost certain) that Greeks were among the people who did this. Then perhaps they can also be identified as regards other crimes, there (executions, etc).

    Killing muslims was described as a… hobby, and a reason for celebration for the purpose of… relaxation. WHAT can one expect from such Nazis?
    If Serb soldiers are suspect, explicitly self-identified NeoNazists are many times more suspect.

    May I suggest that Mr. Michas also contacts this lady? Her testimony should be enpugh to acquit him (to start with)…

    NOTE: Probably the phrase “clumsily fighting muslims” meant simply UNARMED Muslims, since even the clumsiest ARMED persons CANNOT be killed “by the tens”, at a time….

  12. OK,
    so here is the URL of Mrs. Loupa’s article (unfortunately in Greek)
    http://www.greeknewsonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=6783
    (it also appeared in other URLs).

    Moreover, there exist today Neo-Nazi Greeks who participate in a notorious Neo-Nazi Forum (stormfront.org). Here is the URL of what one of them posted there, about Greek volunteers in Bosnia:
    http://www.stormfront.org/forum/showpost.php?p=6245716&postcount=4

    Bear in mind that (according to this post) the original source of information (and photos of Greek paratroopers with faces blurred afterwars) was a Greek military magazine,
    “AMYNA KAI DIPLOMATIA” ( http://www.amynanet.gr )

    (I mention all this also in my Greek blog post).

  13. P.S.
    I have just written a comment with no less than 3 links.
    Please don’t let it disappear in your Spam-bin !

    (although -as always- I _do_ have a safe copy -hehe).

  14. I believe that the lawsuit is justified unless Mr. Mihas proves that Mr. Vitalis personally participated in any massacres. Think of it this way: If one writes a book in the US saying “american G.I.s take part in war crimes”, is he open to a lawsuit by any G.I. or not?
    So I expect Mr. Mihas to lose here and rightly so. Accusations without proof is a major offense. In addition, from what I can see Mr. Mihas seems to be mixing facts and fiction(like his comment about extreme nationalism in Greece-such parties get a ridiculously small percent and should be compared with neihboring countries, like Turkey or FYROM). When I read about Greece militarily suporting Serbia(actually Serbo-bosnians), I think of this as a joke, just like hunters boasting about their kills or the guy who claims he kills 300 people per second: Because among other things the greek weapons and ammo are simply incompatible with the yugoslav arsenal.

    Most problematic are also Mr. Mihas’s claims of holding confidential diplomatic documents(that prove his point according to him, but he gives no more details): Unless they are fake or figments of his imagination, this should provoke an inquiry with criminal implications involving him too(confidential documents are not to end up in the hands of journalists)
    So, I expect he will have trouble there too,

  15. visegrad92 Says:

    Tom, there is nationalism everywhere, but genocide support cannot be justified by claiming that neighboring countries also have nationalism. Why evade the fact that everyone should answer for his crimes. I see you don’t mention Greek citizens in Srebrenica. Why? Why hasn’t the Greek government done anything to prosecute these guys? About Greek offical support for Karadzic and Milosevic, this is confirmed by various reports including the one asking for Cyprus to block FRY offshore accounts(which they of course did not).

  16. @Tom
    I think you are under the false impression that Takis Michas made personal accusations against Vitalis, specifically. In fact he did not. Nor did he name any other specific individual, in his articles, especially the recent article in “Eleytherotypia” for which he was sued. I have read the article and -sorry- there is nothing inside it like what you ASSUME was written.

    Moreover, as regards the attitude of Greek politicians (and government) at the time (during the Bosnian war) anyone should be free to criticize it, especially we -ordinary Greek people- who have been seriously misled, totally misinformed about several aspects of official Greek policies, as well as kept totally in the dark as regards Serbian war-crimes (this being the result of biased media, as well).

    I also doubt very strongly if the Greek support for Serbia did ANYTHING good for the best interests of Greece, as well. On the whole it was negative, and indirectly it was TREACHEROUS, even though it was seen as “patriotic” at the time.

    All this does NOT imply that all war-crimes were committed only by the Serbs, and I do NOT deny there was more international support for the Bosnians, at the time (exactly opposite to Greek public sentiments).

    One important point can be expressed better through an analogy: Would you consider it “patriotic” if some crazy Greek politicians supported… Saddam Hussein, JUST BECAUSE America attacked him? Would be in the best interests of Greece to… sanctify Saddam, in this case?

    Milosevic ALSO harmed Serbia, and to the extent that Greeks stood by his side, or by the side of other war-criminals, those Greeks ALSO harmed Greece.

  17. Ms. Christianna Loupa has answered my e-mail, at last; after being told by others that I had written to her (in an old, invalid e-mail address). After some kind words, she emphasized her position that if there were criminals, they must be brought to justice, also saying that Mr. Michas has contected her.
    Mr. Michas (just like me) has received a copy of the original Greek article interviewing Greek volunteers in Bosnia, sent by Ms, Loupa.
    In Greek, the article’s header is this:
    Οι Έλληνες στη Σρεμπρένιτσα και η μεγάλη σφαγή – του Στέλιου Βραδέλη
    Περιοδικό «Ταχυδρόμος» (13/11/2004)

    In English:
    Greeks in Srebrenitsa and the Big Massacre – by Stelios Vradelis, “Tahydromos” magazine, 13/11/2004.

    After reading the whole article (before updating my main post) I realized there is SOME useful information there, but not very much: In the interview, Mr. Vradelis explicitly admitted that Greek volunteers interviewed by him were AWARE (as well as… BOASTFUL) of TORTURE against all Albanian and Arab war-prisoners (as opposed to Bosnian prisoners – who were supposedly respected)… However he did NOT include in the published interview THESE statements, effectively protecting those men. Well, maybe he should be invited to TESTIFY and SPECIFY what they had said and WHO said WHAT. (Names do appear in the interview; See the update in my blog and comments written today – also in English, after a few minutes).

    I may not agree with Mr. Michas on OTHER issues, at times; however, in THIS issue I wish him every success, hoping that his innocence triumphs and also that Greek war-criminals ARE brought to justice.

  18. @Omadeon: I wish that you got somehow, translate that article in whole.
    What Vradelis says about “Albanian and Arab” fighters is rubbish. There were no Albanian fighters in Bosnia only Arabs and they positioned themselves in relatively peaceful central Bosnia. So its pretty impossible for a Greek volunteer to come across an Arab volunteer in Eastern Bosnia.

    p.s. some comments by other readers were sanctioned after they made racist and Bosniakophobic remarks.

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