ATHENS – Greek police arrested the former artistic director of the country’s prestigious national theater on Saturday night, who was the subject of allegations of sexual abuse and harassment that have rioted the Greek art world in recent weeks.
Dimitris Lignadis reported to the Athens police headquarters shortly after the news that an arrest warrant had been issued against him for rape, his lawyer Nikos Georgouleas said in a text message. Mr Georgouleas later spoke to Police Headquarters where his client was being held and said his client had denied the charges.
“He denies everything that is heard,” said the lawyer.
Mr. Lignadis is the most famous among the numerous directors and actors named in a barrage of allegations that have rocked the Greek art world. And the charges against him are among the most serious. He resigned from his post at the National Theater earlier this month after reports surfaced that he had sexually molested young actors, which he angrily denied. After his resignation, other reports emerged alleging more serious abuse.
Recognition…Efi Skaza / Eurokinissi, via Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
The upheaval in the Greek art world came after an Olympic sailor, Sofia Bekatorou, last month accused a senior sailing official of sexually abusing her in 1998. Her allegations were the first high-profile sexual assault and abuse of power allegations in Greece since the #MeToo movement took over the world, paralyzing powerful figures in sports, media and beyond.
On Friday, Greek culture minister Lina Mendoni said she had asked the country’s Supreme Court to investigate a spate of allegations of sexual assault, mostly of abuse of minors.
In her remarks, Ms. Mendoni underlined the need for “catharsis” in the Greek cultural sector and said that sexual abuse, especially against minors, should not go unpunished.
The unfolding scandal has fueled a fierce political battle in Greece. Ms. Mendoni’s critics accuse her of making Mr. Lignadis National Theater in 2019. Ms. Mendoni defended her ministry’s actions, saying that neither she nor the country’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, knew Mr. Lignadis “personally” and only knew him as an actor.
“Mr Lignadis is a dangerous man, but that has now emerged,” said the minister. She said she was “deceived” by him.
“With deep acting talent he tried to convince us that he had nothing to do with it,” Ms. Mendoni said, referring to the allegations of abuse.
During a televised interview with President Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Friday, Prime Minister Mitsotakis also referred to the increasing number of allegations of sexual abuse and harassment in the Greek performing arts.
“The sexual abuse of minors is the most heinous version of this phenomenon,” Mitsotakis said at the meeting. “In the public dialogue that has happily begun, we must achieve the greatest possible political and social consensus if we are to tackle the problem,” he said.
Greek prosecutors are expected to summon witnesses next week to further investigate allegations of abuse and harassment in the Greek art world, starting with the country’s actor union leader Spyros Bibilas, who said the union was having complaints from Actors reporting suspected abuse have been inundated.
In a statement made after Mr Lignadis’ arrest on Saturday, the Greek Ministry of Justice said that the judicial authorities “will do whatever is necessary to ensure that everything comes to light and that justice is done in this very shady case”.