ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A firebrand Greek debt activist whose followers take an oath of allegiance to the ancient gods has been charged with fraud and running a criminal organization.
A senior state prosecutor filed the charges Tuesday against Artemis Sorras, head of the Convention of Greeks, which urges taxpayers not to settle debts with the government. Seven of his alleged associates were also charged with related offenses.
Sorras, convicted earlier this month and sentenced to eight years in prison on separate embezzlement charges, has evaded arrest and vowed not to surrender to authorities in a video message posted on the internet.
"I of course will never turn myself in, because I am a true native Greek, and not part of some company that calls itself the Republic of Greece, or Germany or Washington D.C.," he said in the 21-minute message, referring to his supporters as "warriors."
"My country is here. The earth of my ancestors is here, and will stay to fight till the end."
Sorras' organization has claimed to have the ability to raise enough money to cover Greece's massive national debt — worth 320 billion euros — from shares in a bank that was merged before World War II. No Greek bank is worth anything close to that sum.
The Convention of Greeks says it has more than 200 offices around the country. One of its oath-taking ceremonies was held last year at Ancient Olympia, the site of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece.
Greeks have been battered by eight years of recession or flat growth and a surge in poverty and debt — prompting a multitude of new political movements and parties, as successive governments impose harsh austerity measures and lose public support.
More than half the country's taxpayers are behind on payments, according to government figures, while 35.7 percent of Greece's population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion — an 8-point hike since the start of the crisis.
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