Christos Sartzetakis (Greek: Χρήστος Σαρτζετάκης; born 6 April 1929) is a Greek jurist and former supreme justice of the Court of Cassation (Greece), who served as the fourth President of the Third Hellenic Republic from 1985 to 1990. He was born in Neapoli, Thessaloniki in 1929. His father who was serving as a police officer in Thessaloniki - where he met his mother - was Cretan, having born in Kandanos, Chania, while his mother who was born in Sklithro, Florina was Macedonian, i.e. Greek.
He entered the Law Faculty of the University of Thessaloniki in 1946, and received his degree in 1950, after which he practiced law in Thessaloniki. In 1954 he received his license to practice law after successfully completing the Bar examination. In November 1955, he was named Justice of the Peace. A year later, he became a magistrate of the Court of First Instance.
He was the unyielding prosecutor in the sensational case of the assassination of the left-wing member of parliament (and ‘doctor of the poor’) Grigoris Lambrakis, committed on 22 May 1963 in Thessaloniki by right-wing extremists. Lambrakis had called for Greece to disarm and withdraw from NATO. Over half a million people attended his funeral. In spite of obstruction of justice by his superiors, Sartzetakis doggedly pursued his investigation to the end. He succeeded in convicting the police officers involved in the murder; they were later rehabilitated by the military junta.
The circumstances of the Lambrakis investigation was the theme of the well-known 1966 novel Z, by Vassilis Vassilikos and portrayed in the 1969 Costas Gavras film Z.
After the Lambrakis prosecution, Sartzetakis left for Paris on a state-sponsored educational leave to study comparative law at the Faculté de Droit et des Sciences Économiques de Paris and Centre Universitaire des Études des Communautés Européennes. Immediately following the coup d'état of 21 April 1967 by George Papadopoulos, he was called back to Athens by the military junta. Along with 29 other magistrates, he was discharged by a "Constitutional Act" from all his legal functions on 29 May 1968.
He was twice arrested, and imprisoned for almost a year until he was released on 19 November 1971 under mounting international pressure mainly from France. He was victim of torture by the Greek military police.
In September 1974, after the toppling of the dictatorship and the restoration of the democracy in Greece (metapolitefsi), he was completely rehabilitated.
In the following years he became chairman of the Court of Appeal and finally, in October 1982, member of the Court of Cassation (Greece). He became a fellow of several international legal societies. He also wrote several legal and political studies.
In March 1985, on a prime minister's proposal which caught the nation by surprise, the governing party PASOK refused to renew the term of Konstantinos Karamanlis, who stepped down on his own will before his term expired, and instead had Sartzetakis elected by the parliament as fourth President of the Hellenic Republic (or fifth, including President pro tem Alevras) since 1974 for a 5-year tenure; the first non-politician president of metapolitefsi. Sartzetakis was in office from 30 March 1985 to 4 May 1990.
Although Sartzetakis was viewed as a hero of the democracy and was thought highly by the Greek Left, he was actually always a conservative right-wing royalist. His zeal to unravel the Lambrakis case was not based on his political views, but on his professionalism. He still attends many ceremonial events in Greece, including overpatriotic celebrations. He has been honored several times as doctor honoris causa and been given the highest decorations of many states. He is still widely known and respected for his integrity as a judge and as a fighter for democracy, although his earlier lustre has faded out from the 1990s.
Official website (Greek)
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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