A Greek court will rule on Wednesday whether to allow sales of a cartoon book from Austria depicting Jesus Christ as a drinking buddy of Jimi Hendrix and a marijuana-smoking, naked surfer.
Cartoonist Gerhard Haderer was found guilty by a Greek court of “malicious public blasphemy” this year and received a six-month suspended prison sentence for his take on the life of Christ – but he can only be detained if he comes to Greece.
The book went on sale in Greece briefly in 2002, but the Orthodox Church was outraged and succeeded in having it immediately withdrawn through a provisional court order.
“This should never have happened if we were living in a real democratic society,” said Athina Kouri of the book’s Greek publishers Oxy. “Our position is that there should be no obstacle to the freedom of speech.”
Haderer’s lawyer Maria Mazioti is expected to file an objection to the ruling on Wednesday on the grounds that another European Union member, Austria, refused to charge the cartoonist after complaints in his home country regarding the same book.
The Life of Jesus has been translated into 10 languages.
Dozens of top Greek cartoonists are backing their colleague, saying the decision has harmed the image of their country.
A 1,000-signature petition, signed by international artists, including 2004 Nobel Literature Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, demanded the immediate lifting of the ban.
It was not clear whether Haderer, who has said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, would be present at the trial.