Putting Socrates back in the dock

History’s most famous hearing, the trial of Socrates, which took place some 2,500 years ago, will be repeated through state-of-the-art technology and may deliver a new verdict: Will the Athenian philosopher be found innocent or guilty? 

The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1787) [Credit: Wiki Commons]
The initiative belongs to the Onassis Foundation and is set to take place on Friday, May 25. Eminent European and American jurists have been invited to re-examine the social and legal questions in the case, while the final decision will rest with members of the public who can follow the procedure in situ and online. 

Socrates had been accused of being disrespectful to the city’s gods, introducing new deities and corrupting the youth. Tried by 500 Athenian citizens, he was found guilty by a majority of 280 and sentenced to death. 

Now, centuries after his death in 399 BC, the great philosopher is back in the dock. With engaging speeches and arguments on both sides, the event is aimed at re-examining the case with the aid of historical and contemporary sources, as well as modern-day public discourse standards and perceptions of justice. Another aim is to introduce a new approach to Socrates as a philosopher and his contribution to ancient Athenian public life. 

A similar virtual trial organized by the Onassis Foundation in New York last year ended in a “not guilty” verdict for Socrates. Will the verdict be different this year? 

Acting as counsel for the defense in the modern-day Athens trial is British barrister Michael Beloff and France’s Patrick Simon, while acting as counsel for the City of Athens is University of Athens professor and Supreme Court lawyer Ilias Anagnostopoulos and Dr Anthony Papadimitriou, a lawyer and president of the Onassis Foundation. 

By Kostas Varnales
Price: $3.75

The members of the court include Britain’s Lord Justice Richard Aikens, French Conseil d’Etat judge Sophie-Caroline De Margerie, French Academy of Moral and Political Science member Pierre Delvolve, Swiss Court of Appeal Vice President Stephan Gass, former President of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court Dr Giusep Nay, Southern District of New York Chief Judge Loretta Preska, criminal law professor emeritus and former Greek Parliament Speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki, former Athens Supreme Court Vice President Vasilleios Rigas, Court of Appeals of England and Wales member Sir Stephen Sedley, French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences member Francois Terre and University of Tuebingen law professor Harm Peter Westermann. 

Socrates’ trial takes place on May 25 at 6.30 p.m. It will be in English and French with simultaneous translation, and will be streamed live at www.sgt.gr. Tickets cost 5-10 euros. For bookings, call 210.900.5800. 

Author: Lina Giannarou  | Source: Kathimerini [May 13, 2012]]

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