Advocacy Update: ASA Board Reissues Calls for Georgiou Persecution to End, Exoneration

Reacting to recent developments in Greece’s prosecution of its former chief statistician, Andreas Georgiou, the American Statistical Association (ASA) Board of Directors at its August 2021 meeting emphatically reiterated its past calls for Greek officials to end the persecution of Georgiou and exonerate him, highlighting the following paragraph of its May 2018 statement:

The continued prosecution of Georgiou undermines the current production of Greek statistical figures, the accuracy and objectiveness of which are paramount for attracting foreign investment and ending Greece’s cycles of economic crises. The repeated rejections of acquittals also violate Georgiou’s scientific freedom and human rights. These basic freedoms and rights are essential for our profession and our professionals. The American Statistical Association urges Greek officials to end these unjust prosecutions for the good of all.

Andreas Georgiou

Following this winter’s Greek appeals court decision finding Georgiou liable for slander, the ASA joined the international community in denouncing the legal setback and persecution likely extending beyond 10 years. Georgiou—the former president of the Greek statistics office, ELSTAT—was appealing a court decision that found he had engaged in “simple slander” in 2014 when making true statements in his defense of the revised government deficit and debt data of ELSTAT for the period 2006–2009 because he allegedly damaged the reputation of the plaintiff. The revised statistics Georgiou was defending had already been validated by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, eight times at that time and continue to be validated. The plaintiff is the former director of the national accounts division of the Greek statistics office from the period (2006-2010).

The ASA has become aware that, in the days following Georgiou’s July 7, 2021, filing for an appeal of the slander case to the Greek Supreme Court, the plaintiff demanded immediate “obligatory execution” of what was provided for in the appeals court decision: immediate payment of the 10,000 euro award in damages (which has now risen with interest to 18,443 euro) and the immediate publishing of a public apology from Georgiou to the plaintiff. If Georgiou does not comply with the demands of the plaintiff, despite Georgiou’s appeal to the Greek Supreme Court, the plaintiff can seize assets in Greece in Georgiou’s name—including his home—for the damages and the fine of 200 euro per day for delay in publishing the public apology, which started accruing August 4. The ASA has learned Georgiou is seeking an injunction to halt and reverse the fines. Further, the ASA understands the Greek government has supported the legal expenses for the plaintiff.

“This situation is bound to have an adverse effect on Greek official statisticians and their incentives to maintain the high international standards started under Georgiou at ELSTAT for reporting objective statistics,” stated 2022 ASA President Katherine Ensor. “It is also a clear message to Greek official statisticians not to speak up. All this is undoubtedly detrimental for official statistics, evidence-based policymaking and informed democratic processes, not to mention human rights of scientists.”

For further background, see  Greek Statistician Found Liable for Slander, Continues to Face Persecution.