Suspended sentence pending appeal for 2 rape convictions against well-known actor-director generate widespread criticism

A well-known theater actor-director convicted of two counts of rape of a minor by an Athens court on Wednesday walked free a few hours later, after a 4-3 vote by a mixed panel of judges and jurors suspended his 12-year sentence.

The vote to provisionally suspend the sentence, ahead of the expected appeals process, generated a howls of protest from many present in the courtroom, as well as victims and their attorneys, along with a firestorm of criticism in Greece.

Dimitris Lignadis, who resigned as director of the country's prestigious National Theatre when the accusations were first made public, was acquitted of another two similar rape charges.

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He was convicted of separately raping two 17-year-old teen males in 2015.

Under Greece's penal code, the bench prosecutor can appeal both acquittals, the handed down prison term and the suspended sentence at the appellate level. Similarly, the defense has the right to appeal the convictions and the sentencing, something that is almost certain to occur.

The same prosecutor had recommended that the sentence not be suspended pending appeal.

Before Wednesday's verdict, Lignadis spent some 17 months in jail awaiting trial.

He is banned from leaving the country and must appear at the police precinct closest to his residence three times month, while he is also liable for a 30,000-euro bond to be paid by July 23.

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