Court halts session on TV licenses amid dispute

1 October 2016
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The Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, convened Friday to consider appeals by television channels against the constitutionality of a recent government auction of TV licenses. But the session was suspended within just an hour following a disagreement between judges about how to proceed amid concerns about attempts to influence the judgment of the court.

The president of the court, Nikos Sakellariou, ended the session “because of efforts to create a certain climate in recent days, through public statements and declarations, ahead of the outcome of the plenary session meeting,” apparently indicating that efforts were under way to influence the court’s verdict. His statement was issued several hours after the meeting ended following a considerable amount of acrimony, according to sources.

Ahead of the session, judicial sources said, Sakellariou had stressed to other judges the critical nature of the case, an intervention said to have bothered many of those in attendance.

Some of the judges present indicated that they did not agree with the decision to end the session without a decision. “Soberness and coolheadedness are qualities that should accompany judicial officials in the performance of their duties,” one source said, adding that the suspension of the session due to the prevailing climate was “unfortunate to say the least.”

According to sources, the matter at hand – whether or not the recent government auction of TV licenses is in line with the Constitution – was not discussed during Friday’s brief session.

The union representing Greece’s judges and prosecutors issued a brief statement, saying it was Sakellariou’s initiative to end the session but did not indicate when the court’s plenary might reconvene to discuss the matter.

A new set of appeals by Greek television channels are scheduled to be heard by the same court on January 13 next year.

In a related development Friday, Greek-Russian businessman Ivan Savvidis assumed the fourth TV license following a decision by Yiannis Kalogritsas, one of the original winners in the auction, to pull out following controversy over his family’s finances and connections to leftist SYRIZA. An inspection of Savvidis’s source of wealth declarations (“pothen esches”) did not reveal any issues and the businessman paid the first installment for the license, a sum of 20.5 million euros, his lawyer said.

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