Stavros, Zoe and …6 postponements in trial of 'cheese pie rapist'

Heated exchange between Parliament president and political party leader causes latter to launch stinging reminder to former, Zoe Konstantopoulou

“We’ll have a chat with those who cover-up for rapists another time,” was the eyebrow-raising phrase used by the leader of the centrist Potami party on Friday during an off-the-agenda party leaders’ debate, sending shock waves through the legislature.

The debate, in fact, was televised nationally across Greece, given that it was convened after a request by PM Alexis Tsipras to brief lawmakers on the apparently frustrated efforts to achieve a deal with institutional creditors.

Some of the lawmakers wondered what the one-time television presenter Stavros Theodorakis was referring to, only seconds after a verbal clash with outspoken Parliament President Zoe Konstantopoulou; others were familiar with the accusation. For television viewers trying to discern any “daylight” in talks with partners leading to an improved economic outlook, the give-and-take between Konstantopoulou and Theodorakis was somewhat …Delphic.

“Don’t you think we know the history of each one here, in our little Parliament?” Theodorakis asked an obviously fuming Konstantopoulou, who nevertheless avoided a direct response.

What Theodorakis was alluding to is none other than a feature article he wrote in the mass daily “Nea” dealing with the personal ordeal of a Canadian woman and her efforts to see the man who raped her finally tried by an Athens court – a trial repeatedly and provocatively postponed.

According to reports from that time, Konstantopoulou was the chief defense counsel for the defendant, who faced four felony counts of sexual assault, amongst others. All of four (known) victims were identified as foreign nationals that had arrived in Athens for tourism.

At the time, the suspect was nicknamed the “rapist with the tyropita (cheese pie)”, given his modus operandi. As a police investigation revealed, the suspect would plant a strong tranquilizer in the pie and offer it to unsuspecting female tourists after first approaching them with claims of being an … Air France pilot and an aficionado of ancient antiquity. If his line was convincing and the snack consumed, he would then ply the victims with alcohol – a lethal mix with the tranquilizer, as experts testified.

He would then either rent a hotel room – with the victims’ passports – and proceed to rape them, either leaving them in a state of temporary amnesia or lead them to a metro station.

Two of the victims decided to go public with their ordeal, Canadian Natalie C. and Australian Deina M.S., beginning with the first trial date in 2006 on through 2013, when Theodorakis’ newspaper article appeared. The alleged rapist’s trial was postponed … six times based on assertions of pressing obligations by Konstantopoulou, his lawyer.

That meant, amongst others, that the women had to return, again, from Canada and Australia, respectively, paying out of their own pocket.

The main reason cited by Konstantopoulou to get the postponements was that she had to appear at other clients’ trials. However, she also demanded continuances by requesting that some judges recuse themselves, trying to disqualify jurors by claiming bias against her client, motions to suspend the bench composition due to an improper selection of jurists and even a motion regarding the reading out of transcripts.

All of the motions citing “technicalities” and “loopholes”, however, fell by the wayside, but they nevertheless delayed the trial and extended the stay of the two women in Greece.

The issue was even taken up by the SYRIZA party, from where Konstantopoulou emerged when it was in the opposition. Women’s groups in the leftist party and one Avgi newspaper columnist, Sissy Vovou, also took up the case, echoing similar criticism by feminist movements. Avgi, it should be noted, is that party’s official newspaper.

Protests were also lodged by the local affiliate of International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, who stood by the victims and offered free legal assistance.

“The attorney for the defendant claimed that she was busy with another case in the provinces; a case she took up only last week. I told them I had come from Canada, they knew that, of course. I begged them to break off proceedings and reconvene next week. Nothing happened,” the Canadian woman was quoted as saying in the “Nea” article.
The woman also addressed a letter to Konstantopoulou herself, asking not to place legal obstacles and to proceed with the trial.

The suspect, Emmanouil (Manolis) Aristovoulos, was convicted in 2012 and given 12 years of prison, which on appeal in 2013 was reduced to 10.