Greece #metoo: Rape accusations against prominent actor and National Theater director finally lead to arrest

The building of the National Theatre of Greece

The building of the Greek National Theatre in central Athens. Image by George E. Koronaios via Wikimedia, CC0 1.0.

A prominent figure of the Greek cultural establishment, Dimitris Lignadis, was arrested on February 20 on charges of rape, as Greek society learns to challenge the traditional acceptance of impunity for perpetrators of sexual abuse of women and children.

The 56-year-old Greek actor and director, who also headed the country's prestigious National Theatre, was arrested in Athens on February 20, and on February 22 appeared in front of an investigator for a hearing on the details of the charge. Two lawsuits have been brought against Lignadis, with three individuals accusing him of rape. Two witnesses have already testified.

Lignadis resigned from his position on February 6, citing “a toxic climate of rumours,” and has since denied all accusations.

On February 21, Lignadis presented himself at police headquarters in Athens with his lawyer, inquired whether a warrant had been issued against him, then left. Later that day a warrant was issued and he was arrested. Some people have claimed his actions were based on inside knowledge about the arrest and a desire to order to avoid being labelled a fugitive suspect in the event of arrest and pre-trial detention. According to journalist Kostas Vaxevanis, for example:

 Lignadis went to GADA [Police HQ] voluntarily, knowing of course that there is no warrant (yet). He both saves face and shows good behavior, when he is accused as a fugitive suspect in the future. Legal tricks that seek cheap impressions

An open secret in Greece's artistic community

One of the first accusations of sexual abuse leveled publicly against Lignadis was published in an interview on with a young man published on February 6, in which the man claimed to have been raped by Lignadis when he was a minor. The case is statute-barred, but the man said that his goal in speaking out now was to motivate other victims to come forward. 

After Lignadis’ resignation on the same day, other, older accusations resurfaced.

On February 18, another man claimed he was raped by Lignadis at the age of 15, and said that he had filed a lawsuit against the actor on February 8. Reports also emerged that as early as May 2012, the authorities had investigated a case of alleged sexual abuse that had possible links to a pedophile ring.

Lignadis, who also taught acting, had been been expelled from another theater school in 2016, after a delegation of students asked the school's authorities to stop Lignadis from holding discussions about “sexual pursuits and experiences” in his classes.

These revelations prompted several members of the theatre community to publicly denounce the culture of silence around powerful figures on the cultural scene, and to reveal that they had known about Lignadis’ abusive behaviour, either as fact or rumor, for years.  Greek director Dimitris Karantzas observed that:

Μεγαλώσαμε στο χώρο που όταν αναφερόμασταν στον -γνωστό σε όλους – παιδεραστή, μας κάναν σουτ με το δάχτυλο , να μην…

Posted by Dimitris Karantzas on Monday, February 1, 2021

We grew up in a field, where, when we were referring to the – known to everyone – pedophile, we were “shushed” […] and when we spontaneously asked “why?”, the answers were “yes but we do not say it”, “yes but not a nostril will bleed [Greek expression meaning nothing will happen] because he has an in with people”, “yes but he came through so many trials”, “yes but he will say you're crazy” etc. […]

Δεν είναι παιδεραστής, είναι παιδοβιαστης, είναι κακοποιητής ανηλίκων. Δεν υπάρχει 'έρωτας' στην σεξουαλική…

Posted by Esra Dogan on Sunday, February 21, 2021

He is not a pedophile, he is a pedo-raper, he is a juvenile molester.
There is no “love” in sexual abuse, there is no “philia” (friendship) in rape.
Let's not  legitimize sexual violence verbally.

On February 19, furious netizens also uncovered an old photo on Lignadis’ Instagram account,  showing him making inappropriate gestures and comments during a theatre rehearsal.

Όταν η διαστροφή προβάλλεται … όταν ο θύτης διαφημίζει τα κατορθώματα του …Όταν τα θύματα είναι ανήλικα …Τότε η σιωπή κ η ´ διακριτικότητα ´ είναι απλά συνενοχή .

Posted by Rena Kouvelioti on Friday, February 19, 2021

Political collusion?

The case has ignited a firestorm of indignation and bitter recrimination both offline and online, with people accusing the Greek government of failing to follow up on complaints. Hashtags trending online include #λιγναδης (Lignadis), #μενδωνη_παραιτησου ([Culture Minister Mrs.] Mendoni, resign], and #μητσοτακη_παραιτησου ([PM] Mitsotaki, resign).

Since the initial, early-February lawsuit, the Prosecutor has failed to order any warrant or search the defendant's apartment, which netizens say could have given Lignadis to destroy incriminating evidence. As this netizen points out:

How many times has the “famous director” formatted his computers in the last few days? Of course, the police did not consider it appropriate to investigate them, since the man was just raping children, he wasn't managing a squat, let's say, so that even his forks would be confiscated for DNA evidence.

In a press conference on February 19, Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni called Lignadis a “dangerous man” who had “deceived the PM and her with his acting ability.” Mendoni also insisted that neither she nor the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, knew Lignadis personally.

A month after having won the 2019 general elections, however, the New Democracy government, through the Minister of Culture, annulled a public competition for the position of National Theatre director and Mendoni appointed Lignadis personally to the position and defended his ethos and character in parliament, causing a public stir.

And a video posted in May 2020 on the Greek PM's Facebook and YouTube accounts shows Mitsotakis (at 01:09) talking with considerable familiarity to Lignadis, using the latter's first name. 

The Culture Minister's statement further infuriated the theatre community. The Panhellenic Spectacle Federation declared that:

Η σύνδεση της Υποκριτικής Τέχνης με την υποκρισία και την εξαπάτηση και η στοχοποίηση του σπουδαίου επαγγέλματος του Ηθοποιού είναι αδιανόητη για οποιονδήποτε πολιτισμένο άνθρωπο, αλλά όταν προέρχεται από την ίδια την Υπουργό Πολιτισμού, τότε μετατρέπεται σε μείζον πολιτικό θέμα.

The connection of the Art of Acting with hypocrisy and deception and the targeting of the great profession of the Actor is inconceivable for any civilized person, but when it comes from the Minister of Culture herself, then it becomes a major political issue.

Others pointed out while that the names of other distinguished cultural figures accused in recent times of sexual misconduct were eventually revealed in the press, major Greek media outlets appeared hesitant to name Lignadis, and only began reporting on the matter following the outrage expressed on social media.

As prominent journalist Elena Akrita observed:

Για να καλύπτει η κυβερνηση με τόσο ζήλο μια υπόθεση παιδεραστίας, αναρωτιέται κανείς αν το ψαρι βρωμάει από το κεφάλι. Μήπως το σκάνδαλο με τα κυκλώματα φτάνει στα υψηλά κλιμάκια;

Posted by Elena Akrita on Thursday, February 18, 2021

If the government so ardently covers up a pedophilia case, one wonders if the fish stinks from the head.
Does the scandal with the rings reach the high levels?

Mini-event outside the Ministry of Culture. Protesters put a fishhead in the entrance. Photo from a tweet of @ThePressProject.

A victory for the Greek #metoo movement?

Credit for these events, and for the rise of the #metoo movement in Greece, largely belongs to the Olympic gold medalist Sofia Bekatorou, who earlier this year revealed that she was raped by a Greek Sailing Federation official—who since resigned—in 1998. Although the offense was statute-barred, Bekatorou said she spoke out to encourage other women and victims to raise their voices.

Since then, a landslide of revelations has shaken the conservative Greek society, as many women and men from the fields of sports, education and the artists field have come forward to accuse well-known figures of sexual misconduct, and become the targets of both public sympathy and victim-blaming.

Lignadis is the first of these to be arrested, and surely, as one satirical “God” reminds us, in such situations there is always more than one person involved:

Συγκρατήστε τους χορούς και τα χαρμόσυνα ποστ για τη σύλληψη Λιγνάδη. Ένα κύκλωμα trafficking δεν αποτελείται ποτέ από έναν μόνο άνθρωπο. Ο Λιγνάδης ήταν πελάτης, να χαρούμε όταν βρεθεί κι ο μαγαζάτορας.

Posted by Ο Θεός. on Saturday, February 20, 2021

Save the dances and the joyful posts for Lignadis’ arrest. A trafficking ring never consists of a single person. Lignadis was a customer, let's get happy when the shopkeeper is found.

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