Writers, publishers protest Greek court's censorship of Austrian satirist

International authors and publishers urged Greece to repeal its blasphemy legislation after an Austrian satirist was found guilty of insulting Jesus Christ in a comic book.

"International PEN, the International Publishers' Association and the International Booksellers Federation call on the Greek authorities to review legislation that allows the sentencing of writers solely for their writings," the groups said in a joint letter to the Greek government.

An Athens court banned "The Life of Jesus," a comic book portraying Jesus Christ as a drug-abusing hippie whose miracles happen by luck rather than divine intervention. The author, Gerhard Haderer, was sentenced in absentia to a suspended six-month jail term for insulting religion, a decision he will appeal.

"'The Life of Jesus' is an illustrated book with humorous intent," the protest letter said.

"The Life of Jesus" has been published in Germany, France, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Hungary and in Haderer's native Austria, where it sold 80,000 copies.

Greek police seized copies of the book on the orders of the judiciary in February 2003. Haderer's publisher and translators here were acquitted.