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Justice

Greek journalist cleared of data privacy charges

The journalist accused of violating data privacy laws for publishing a list of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts has been acquitted and released. He had faced up to two years in prison.

 Costas Vaxevanis, a 46-year-old veteran investigative journalist who now publishes a magazine, awaits the beginning of his trial at a court in Athens on Novemeber 1, 2012. Vaxevanis, a Greek investigative journalist went on trial today for publishing names from an alleged list of Swiss bank accounts that has exposed the debt-plagued government to charges of a cover-up. Vaxevanis, who was arrested on October 28, has been charged with breach of privacy and faces a maximum three-year prison sentence if convicted. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Costas Vaxevanis

The decision from the court in Athens on Thursday comes just a few days after Costas Vaxevanis was arrested.

"The court has ruled that you are innocent," Judge Malia Volika said.

Vaxevanis was arrested and later released on Sunday after his magazine, Hot Doc, published a list of more than 2,000 names of wealthy Greeks, including prominent businessmen and politicians who allegedly have accounts at HSBC bank in Switzerland.

The list is widely known as the "Lagarde List," as it originally came to light after an HSBC employee passed on the list to France's then-finance minister, Christine Lagarde. France passed the list on to Athens in 2010, but while other European countries that received similar documents have opened tax-evasion investigations, Greek officials have so far taken no action.

"Greek people have known for two years now that there is a list of people who are rich, rightly or wrongly, and they are untouchable," Vaxevanis said during his court appearance Thursday. "At the same time, [Greeks] are on the other side, they are suffering cuts."

Some officials have argued that because it was stolen, the data could not be used against possible tax evaders anyway. However their inaction has led some to accuse the government of favoring the wealthy while at the same time imposing tough austerity measures on the general public.

mz/dr (AFP, Reuters)