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Former president Christos Sartzetakis dead at 93

Sartzetakis

Former president Christos Sartzetakis passed away early Thursday morning in a hospital in Athens. He was 93.

Sartzetakis had been treated for pneumonia in the intensive care unit of Laiko General Hospital since December 4, after developing acute respiratory failure. He died at 2.45 this morning.

He was born in 1929 in the district of Neapoli in Thessaloniki. His father was a police official from Chania, Crete, while his mother was from Florina, northern Greece. He studied law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, specialised in Mercantile and European Community Law in Paris and entered the judiciary in 1955.

In 1963 he became widely known when, as a judge in Thessaloniki, he conducted the investigation into the murder of the left-wing member of Parliament, Grigoris Lambrakis, by two right-wing extremists. The killing provoked mass protests and led to a political crisis in Greece. Sartzetakis presided over the case and helped solve it, despite pressure from the right-wing political and judicial leadership of the times to cover up the crime.

His role and the events surrounding the case were immortalised in director Costa Gavras’ movie “Z.”

In 1968, at the time of the military dictatorship, he was expelled from the judiciary, arrested, tortured and imprisoned for almost a year without a trial. With the fall of the dictatorship he was re-instated into the judiciary in September 1974 with the rank of judge of the Court of Appeal, rising in 1982 to Supreme Court Justice.

In 1985, the socialist PASOK party nominated Sartzetakis as President of the Republic. He was elected on 29 March 1985, succeeding Konstantinos Karamanlis.

He was also an honorary member of the High Court of Portugal, an honorary Professor of the History and Ethnology Department of the Democritus University of Thrace, an honorary member of the Literary Society of Thessaloniki and a member of scholarly societies in Greece and abroad. He has published various works on law and politics.

He is survived by his wife, Efi Argiriou, and their daughter.