IN SEARCH OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM, pages 379 ...
In the "Cradle of Democracy"
Perhaps few cases illustrate more clearly the extremes to which the zeal to spy out and deal summarily with any disagreement or disaffection can go than the events that took place in the past decade in the land of Greece, called "the cradle of democracy."
About 1986, the branch office of the Watch Tower Society, located in the Athens area, began applying intense pressure on Witnesses who gave any indication of not being in total agreement with organizational teachings and policies. The number of those disfellowshiped evidently reached more than a hundred. Others simply ceased association quietly. In an interest to maintain spirituality, some of these began to meet with others for Bible reading and discussion in private homes. This, too, was done quietly and without fanfare. The Greek branch office, however, manifested an extreme concern to seek out and take action against any doing so. This in time introduced some remarkable measures and led to a court case described in the portions of an Athens newspaper shown above. This is what happened:
On Tuesday, April 6, 1987, a group of about 50 persons gathered at the home of Nick and Eftihia Bozartzis for Bible discussion. From his balcony Nick noticed two men standing across the street watching the individuals entering his home, some of whom had not formally withdrawn from the organization. Recognizing one of the two observers as a Witness, he went down to speak to them, but as soon as he appeared on the street level they literally ran off. Within days, three of those attending the gathering were disfellowshiped by elders in judicial hearings.
On Friday, others normally went to the home of Voula Kalokerinou, a former Witness, but since they planned to gather for the celebration of the Lord's evening meal on Sunday, their gathering on Friday, April 9, was canceled. That Friday evening, however, Voula noticed a car with five persons inside parked across the road from her house, and the car and its occupants remained there for hours. The next evening the same.
One might think that to assign any sinister motive to such circumstances, viewing them as evidence of "spying" designed to identify "defectors" and supply grounds for judicial action against them, would be the product of imagination, even manifest a degree of paranoia. Later events demonstrate otherwise.
The following Sunday, April 11, a number of persons went to Voula's home to commemorate the death of God's Son on behalf of all mankind. She noticed an unfamiliar car parked across the road on one corner and a van parked on the other corner. The rear window of the van was covered over with paper but with a hole cut in the center of the covering material. The occupants of the car crossed over to the van several times, talking with those inside it. Voula asked one of those who had come to her home to find out why the cars were parked there.
When he approached the car, those inside quickly drove off. He then went to the rear of the van and looked in through the hole of the material covering the rear window. Inside he saw video camera equipment being used by two Witnesses, an elder named Nikolas Antoniou, and a member of the Athens Watch Tower branch office staff, Dimetre Zerdes. A number of others from Voula's home came over to the van and a policeman stationed at the nearby Italian Embassy also appeared to find out what the problem was. The Witnesses in the van managed to drive through the surrounding group and drove to a nearby park where they began quickly unloading their video equipment. They were interrupted by the arrival of two police cars and were arrested on charges of invasion of privacy. The video equipment was confiscated. The film in it showed Mrs. Kalokerinou's home and zoom shots of the front entrance with closeups of all those entering.
Before the district attorney, the two man stated that they were only there to film a relative of Dimetre Zerdes, the Watch Tower branch office member. His cousin, Eftihia Bozartzis, mentioned earlier, had disassociated herself two years before. As a "loyal" Witness, branch office member Dimitre [sic] should have had no interest in her, certainly should not have had any reason for wanting to film her secretively two years after her disassociation.
The case eventually came to trial. In his presentation at the close of the trial, the district attorney, Mr. Kontaxis, stated:
"I don't think there is any Christian organization that tells its members to tell lies, but when the defendent and his organization does so, I would want them to accept the responsibility and say, "Yes, we did spy." And if an organization did such a thing then how can it expect others to follow it? They had and used special equipment with witnesses seeing them filming, and yet the defendent comes along and says he didn't do it to spy but just to film. All this doesn't honor either the defendent or the organization to which he belongs.
"We are all free to belong to any organization we want, but we are also free to leave that organization and do whatever we want within the bounds of the law.... Does a person's leaving, abandoning the organization, give it the right to follow and spy on its members? One is protected by law against cassettes, tape recorders, filming, when such are used to pry into one's personal life and personality. This comes under CONFIDENTIALITY and is protected by it in such cases, and that includes one's private convictions. This is very serious. Obviously the defendents were trying to cryptograph the private life of the plaintiffs by using video equipment, and this purposely, not by chance.
"The Watch Tower Society, by teaching it is the "ark," and that one must enter it to be saved, by teaching it is God's channel, creates tremendous dependency on its members and thus [they] are directed to do everything to threaten and trample all that we call human rights."
In the course of the trial, one of the judges asked the Witness elder, the owner of the van, how long he and the other Witness had been stationed in the van that day. The answer was, six hours. When asked if the windows of the van were clear, the elder said, No, that the back window was covered with paper with a hole in the center through which they had done filming with the video cassette camera. He claimed that all this was solely to film his companion's relative. The confiscated film showed zoom shots of many persons at the house's front entrance and on its balcony. But the relative did not appear anywhere on the film. Actually she could not have appeared - for the simple reason that she was never at the gathering! The court rendered a guilty verdict in the case.