Greek court acquits activists over 2021 Beijing Olympics protest


ATHENS (Reuters) – A Greek court has acquitted three activists detained in October 2021 after unfurling banners on Athens’ Acropolis against the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, their lawyer and activists said on Thursday.

Those acquitted were 19-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang, 22-year-old Hong Kong American Joey Siu and a 35-year-old Vietnamese-American activist.

They had staged a brief protest at the Acropolis in the Greek capital, waving a Tibetan flag and a banner reading “Free Hong Kong – Revolution” on scaffolding surrounding part of the monument.

They were accused of having attempted to pollute, damage and deform a historical monument and faced up to five years in prison. They were acquitted on all counts.

“It was a great day for human rights activists in Tibet, Hong Kong and around the world, and although this was a very politically sensitive matter, it is ultimately justice and the rule of law that prevailed,” their lawyer Alexis Anagnostakis told Reuters.

The protest took place hours before a dress rehearsal for the torch-lighting ceremony for the Games at Olympia in Greece, 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 people of Tibet and Hong Kong,” said group director Michael Polak.

Rights groups and U.S. lawmakers had called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games and move the event unless China stops what the U.S. sees as ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.

Chinese authorities have been accused of facilitating forced labor by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.

China denies wrongdoing, saying it has set up vocational training centers to fight extremism.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Michele Kambas; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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