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June 29, 2017

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Greek publisher acquitted in privacy case

ATHENS, Greece --- A magazine publisher was acquitted on Thursday of breaching privacy laws by printing a list allegedly naming Greeks with bank accounts in Switzerland. The list has touched off a fierce debate in the nearly bankrupt country after governments failed to use it to check for possible tax evasion by rich depositors.

The Athens misdemeanors court gave no reason for its verdict, which followed a closely-watched trial that supporters of Costas Vaxevanis had portrayed as a test of Greek press freedom.

"This decision ... allows journalists to do their job," said Vaxevanis, the publisher of Hot Doc magazine.

A prosecutor had called for Vaxevanis' conviction during the 11-hour trial. If convicted, he would have faced a maximum two-year jail sentence and a fine.

The journalist and publisher was arrested after making public last week the names of more than 2,000 people who allegedly had HSBC accounts in Switzerland several years ago. He said he did so in the public interest.

The list was allegedly provided to Greek tax authorities — for use in investigating possible tax evasion — in 2010 by Christine Lagarde, then France's finance minister who now heads the International Monetary Fund.

The published names were allegedly taken from data on 24,000 HSBC customers that the bank reported stolen that year.

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