Greek leaders have been left embarrassed by the failure of a controversial attempt to prosecute a magazine editor for naming alleged account holders in an offshore bank that had been protected from tax investigation for two years.
The prominent investigative reporter was arrested on accusations of breaking data privacy laws, an offence that carries a term of up to two years in prison. His lawyers said none of those on the leaked list had complained their privacy had been violated.
Mr Vaxevanis had reported the 2059 names were passed to senior officials two years ago by the French as a tool to pursue tax evasion by wealthy Greeks but the alleged overseas account holders had faced 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. At the same time, the (Greek people) are on the other side, they are suffering cuts," he told the court. "The political system has been hiding the truth for so long."
Greek officials have said they did not follow up on the information, popularly known as the Lagarde List after Christine Lagarde, the former French finance minister and now head of the International Monetary Fund, because the data was stolen by a HSBC employee. Mrs Lagarde handed over the information to her Greek counterpart after Paris bought a cache of account information to pursue tax dodgers.
Entering the court, Mr Vanevaxis had said the trial was designed to protect officials who had ignored the leak. "It is likely this trial will issue a guilty verdict so they can say 'you see? This is why we didn't publish (the list). It was a privacy matter,'" he said during a recess. "This will be one more political game which will damage the country globally because of the issue of freedom of speech."
Amnesty International condemned the trial itself as a blow to the freedom of speech. The trial comes in a week in which four leading journalists have faced state-sponsored retribution and the government is desperately trying to seal an international bailout to avoid bankruptcy.
High profile supporters appeared in the court to ridicule the prosecutors rush to try Mr Vanevaxis. Zoe Constantopoulou, an MP for the Syriza opposition, said the wrong man was on trial. "The persecution of Vaxevanis is a blow to constitutional values. The only man who acted for the truth appears prosecuted, in shackles, whereas others contribute to obscurity and freely wander around."
Among those testifying in support of Mr Vaxevanis is the president of the International Federation of Journalists, Jim Boumelha, the president of the International Federation of Journalists, said the case was unprecedented in a developed, democratic country. "We were all astonished by what's happened. I came here to testify in order to try to unravel this absurd farce," he said.