May 16, 2018 / 2:33 PM / 6 months ago

Top Greek judge resigns over pension cut leaks

ATHENS, May 16 (Reuters) - The head of Greece’s top administrative court quit on Wednesday over leaks to the media of its deliberations on a new round of pension cuts and took aim at the austerity measures attached to Greece’s international bailouts.

Greek newspapers have reported on plenary sessions by the Council of State over pension cuts planned for 2019, saying the court had provisionally ruled some aspects of the law were constitutional while others were unconstitutional. Judges are due to hold several sessions before a final ruling.

“I came to my decision following the recent violation of confidentiality of the court’s deliberations on the new pension system and the reasonable disruption it has caused to the entire Greek society,” Nikos Sakellariou said in a televised statement.

“The unthinkable and unacceptable violation of judicial secrecy has dealt a major blow to the credibility and prestige of the Council of State, and it no longer allows me to continue my judicial duties with proper calm and sobriety,” he said.

Sakellariou had been due to retire in June after a career spanning four decades.

Greece’s three multi-billion-euro bailouts since 2010 have repeatedly taken aim at the pension system and cuts have pushed nearly half its retired population below the poverty line of about 600 euros a month.

The latest round of cuts — which could see some pensions reduced by another 18 percent — has struck a nerve with the elderly, who frequently protest in Athens against austerity. With nearly a quarter of the workforce unemployed, a growing number of pensioners have become their families’ sole breadwinners.

Some have now turned to the Council of State in a bid to halt the latest cuts.

In a quavering voice, Sakellariou said he and other colleagues had previously pointed out the “incompatibility” of austerity with the constitution.

The court has not previously ruled on the new pensions law, but Sakellariou predicted a further reduction would result in “the complete deprivation of all pensioners”.

“At the moment, my thoughts are with ordinary citizens who are the victims of bailouts ... whose strengths are constantly tested by the successive economic measures taken in so-called financial interests and which entail excessive burdens,” Sakellariou said. (Reporting by Karolina Tagaris Editing by Catherine Evans)

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