Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis apologised on Friday for the arrest of nine members of feminist groups and NGOs who took part in a peaceful rally to mark the Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25.
The nine women, who included an activist of the Greek chapter of Amnesty International, were initially detained and then arrested and fined 300 euros for breaching public health rules.
“These ladies are right. I think it was an exaggeration that should not have taken place, and I have to apologize for that. This exaggeration should not have happened,” the minister said during a discussion on radio station Real FM on Friday.
The women stood at the stairs of Syntagma Square opposite the Parliament, wearing masks and maintaining their social distance.
Their banner read: “They don’t silence us. The quarantine does not protect us from the pandemic of violence against women.”
Amnesty International criticized the arrests on Thursday. “Arresting, fining and charging peaceful activists simply for staging symbolic actions against gender-based violence is an assault on their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Amnesty’s Regional Director for Europe, Nils Muiznieks, said in a statement.
“Activists must not be penalized for trying to raise awareness about gender-based violence, let alone at a time when women and girls face increased risks due to lockdowns and other restrictions around the world,” he added.
Protests and rallies were banned only around the days of November 17.