A Greek court has acquitted three activists who were arrested in October 2021 after unfurling anti-Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics banners at Athens’ Acropolis, their lawyer and activists said on Thursday.
The 19-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang, 22-year-old Hong Kong resident Joey Siu and a 35-year-old Vietnamese-American activist were acquitted.
They held a brief protest at the Acropolis in the Greek capital, holding up a Tibetan flag and a banner reading “Free Hong Kong – Revolution” on scaffolding that surrounded part of the monument.
They were accused of attempting to soil, damage and deface a historic monument and faced up to five years in prison. They were acquitted of all charges.
“It was a great day for human rights activists in Tibet, Hong Kong and around the world, and although it was a highly politically sensitive case, justice and the rule of law prevailed in the end,” her lawyer Alexis Anagnostakis told Reuters.
The protest came hours before a dress rehearsal of the Torch Ceremony for the Games in Olympia, Greece, site of the ancient Olympic Games.
Justice Abroad, a UK-based advocacy group that provided support, welcomed the acquittal. “Today’s result is a great victory for the right to peaceful protest and for the people of Tibet and Hong Kong,” said Michael Polak, leader of the group.
Human rights groups and US lawmakers have urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games and relocate the event unless China ends what the United States believes is the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
Chinese authorities are accused of facilitating forced labor by holding around a million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.
China denies wrongdoing and says it has set up vocational training centers to counter extremism.