Reversing one of the most infamous court decisions in Greek history, the Supreme Court has posthumously acquitted six top politicians and soldiers executed nearly 90 years ago for a crushing military defeat that indelibly marked modern Greece.
The decision made public late Wednesday follows a fight by the grandson of one of the defendants to clear his grandfather's name, in court and in official school textbooks.
The six _ who included three ex-prime ministers and a former general-in-chief _ were convicted of high treason in 1922, amid a wave of popular discontent after Greece lost the 1919-1922 war against Turkey.
After the rout, still lamented as the Asia Minor catastrophe, tens of thousands of Greeks were forced out of western Turkey and Greece's hopes of regional dominance were shattered.
Supreme Court judges voted 3-2 to accept evidence for the defense that was not available at the 1922 court martial, and reversed the guilty verdict. The decision followed an appeal by former prime minister Petros Protopapadakis' grandson, who was delighted.
"I feel great satisfaction, as an injustice has been reversed," Michalis Protopapadakis told the Associated Press. "I am certain that the souls of these people who have been acquitted will sense it tonight, and are now justified. For they fell victim to no actions of their own, but rather to unpleasant circumstances."
The six men executed by firing squad in 1922 have long been regarded as scapegoats, who had no intention to cause Greece's defeat. Historians believe they were sacrificed to appease a population embittered by the army's heavy losses, the uprooting of communities established for thousands of years in what is modern Turkey, and the collapse of the nationalist dream of a new Greek empire reviving the mediaeval glories of Byzantium.
Military judges were under pressure from a revolutionary committee of officers to issue unanimous convictions, which were duly produced after lengthy pre-dawn deliberations. The six _ including a former prime minister incapacitated by typhoid _ were shot a few hours later. Another two defendants received life sentences, but were soon freed.
Official history textbooks, however, still label the six as traitors, which Protopapadakis wants to amend.
"I will now try to have the truth written in schoolbooks," he said. "My son came home from school one day and asked me: 'Father, is it true that grandfather was a traitor?' That's what he was taught _ and it is indecent for a teacher to insult a boy like that."
He said the pivotal evidence that exonerated his grandfather and the other five executed men came, among others, from a senior military magistrate at the trial who later said he had never believed they were traitors.
"The judges in 1922 did not know that," Protopapadakis said.
The 1919-22 conflict followed on the heels of World War I, whose end found Greece on the winning side _ as opposed to its old foe Turkey. Greek armies occupied parts of Turkey's Aegean seaboard with large ethnic Greek populations and later made a push for Ankara, but were eventually driven into the sea, followed by a host of refugees.
Under the subsequent peace deal, 1.1 million Greek civilians left Turkey for Greece, while 380,000 Turks living in Greece were resettled in Turkey.