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Greek Sailor Refuses Duty, Jailed

April 21, 1999

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ A Greek navy officer who refused to participate in a NATO mission in protest of the airstrikes against Yugoslavia was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison by a military court Wednesday, media reports said.

Lt. Marinos Ritsoudis, 26, was detained last week after refusing to board the navy destroyer Themistokles, which set sail to join NATO forces in the Adriatic Sea. The ships aren’t directly involved in the attacks on Yugoslavia.

Ritsoudis has the right to appeal the sentence, which was suspended for three years.

Speaking in court, Ritsoudis said he had informed his superior officer and Archbishop Christodoulos, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, of his decision. ``I cannot place the law of God under the laws of people,″ local media quoted him as saying.

Archbishop Christodoulos has been a vocal opponent of NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia, calling the bombers ``pawns of Satan.″

Greece maintains friendly ties with its fellow Orthodox Serbs, and is not participating directly in the bombing.

A small group of supporters gathered outside the courtroom, burning American flags and chanting anti-NATO slogans.

A sailor who also refused to board the ship was hospitalized in the psychiatric unit of a naval hospital after reportedly suffering a breakdown because his orders conflicted with his conscience, media reports said.

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