By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, February 8: The trial of the three activists who interrupted the live torch-lighting ceremony in Greece in October has been postponed until the end of this year. The trial was due to take place on Thursday, a day before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but lawyers and human rights activists have accused the Greek court of trying to ‘avoid embarrassing China’ on the eve of the Winter Games.
The three activists unfurled a Tibetan flag and a ‘No Genocide Games’ banner to oppose the International Olympic Committee’s complicity in human rights abuses by allowing China to host the Winter Olympics . Tibetan-Canadian activist Chemi Lhamo, British activist Jason Leith of Free Tibet and American activist Fern MacDougal were cornered by security officials after they interrupted the ceremony with slogans in Olympia. The trio face charges of attempting to “pollute, damage and deform” a historical monument, a charge that carries up to five years in prison under Greek law.
“The real destruction of historical monuments is happening every day all over Tibet and East Turkestan. Just a few weeks ago, a 99ft Buddha statue, 45 prayer wheels and even a monastic school were violently demolished by the Chinese government in Drago, Tibet. Students have been expelled, members of the local community have been detained and tortured simply for sharing information. This is the real crime, yet the world remains silent,” activist Chime Lhamo wrote on her Instagram account days before the scheduled trial.
Lawyers representing the defendants have raised doubts about the delay, as stated by Michael Polak of the group Justice Abroad The Guardian“Our pleas to the court for the case to be heard fell on deaf ears. . Lawyers involved in the case made it clear that the court could have prioritized the case, given its sensitivity to the charges and the timing of the Olympics, but chose not to.
Two student activists, American of Tibetan origin Tsela Zoksang and American of Hong Kong origin Joey Siu, were also arrested on October 17 in Athens for displaying a Tibetan and pro-democracy flag on the Acropolis in favor of the Tibet and Hong Kong. The duo’s trial was also due to take place last week, but had to be postponed after a snowstorm forced the closure of courts and other public sector offices. All participating activists had called for a total boycott of the Beijing Olympics, citing the Chinese regime’s “crimes against humanity” in East Turkestan, cultural repression of Tibetans and political repression in Hong Kong.