Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Online Defamation, centre of interests, and place of harmful event

Since the e-Date ruling of the CJEU a new connecting factor has been added to the discussion on the proper forum for the infringement of personality rights online. The judgment of the Thessaloniki court offers food for thought, however not for what has been rendered, but mostly for what has not been elaborated in its ruling.

Thessaloniki First Instance Court (chamber) 15188/2015, published in: Armenopoulos 2016, pp. 833 et seq.


The claimant is a famous person in Greece. He holds both the Russian and the Greek nationality. He’s today the president of a Premier League football club in the country, which is located in Thessaloniki. When the file was claimed he was not legally the president, but it was common knowledge that he was the de facto president, a fact he has also underlined in his claim. In particular, he was pulling the strings of a Cypriot company, which was the majority shareholder of the club’s shares. This company was represented by his sons, who were receiving instructions from him for all matters related to the football club. The claimant states Thessaloniki as his place of residence. The respondents are a football club of the Greek Premier League (A), located in Piraeus, and the CEO of the club (B), a resident of the same city.

The claimant portrays himself as a highly successful entrepreneur, owner of a large group of companies, with its seat in Rostov, Russia; an ex-politician and deputy in both the Rostov district and the Duma, and an ex-president of two Russian football clubs. He filed an action for damages in the altitude of 1 million Euros, caused by a post uploaded both in Greek and Russian on the official web site of (A), which presumably violated his personality rights. Actually it was a press statement of (A), approved by the Board, and then reproduced by a significant number of sports magazines and newspapers in Greece.  

The defendants did not challenge the venue of the court, and focused on the substantive aspects of the subject matter.


The court granted the claim partially, awarding the sum of 30.000 Euros. It based its jurisdiction in Article 35 Code of Civil Procedure (forum delicti commissi). The court stated that the place where the tort was committed was virtually everywhere, i.e. wherever there was access to the web post, whereas the place where the harmful event occurred was mainly the place of the claimant’s habitual residence. Hence, the forum of the defendants (Article 22 Code of Civil Procedure) was surpassed by reference to the claimant’s habitual residence in Thessaloniki.  


The ruling of the court was undoubtedly correct: The defendants did not challenge the venue, hence a tacit approval of the court’s jurisdiction was evident. At the same time, the cross-border elements of the case were undervalued as a result of the above. 

However, the facts demonstrate the intricacies of the matter, in light of the e-Date ruling of the CJEU. As it is well known, the European Court placed the centre of main interests on top of all other connecting factors, concluding that: ‘the person who considers that his rights have been infringed has the option of bringing an action for liability, in respect of all the damage caused, either before the courts of the Member State in which the publisher of that content is established or before the courts of the Member State in which the centre of his interests is based. That person may also, instead of an action for liability in respect of all the damage caused, bring his action before the courts of each Member State in the territory of which content placed online is or has been accessible. Those courts have jurisdiction only in respect of the damage caused in the territory of the Member State of the court seised’.

Therefore, we may conclude that the Thessaloniki court had international jurisdiction to try the case, given that Greece was the Member State in which the publisher of that content is established. Still, was Thessaloniki the proper venue?

It is accepted that the rule of Art. 7.2 Brussels I bis / Art. 5.3 Brussels I Regulation covers both international jurisdiction and territorial competence of the court seized. Therefore, for establishing the venue of the court, one needs to examine the findings of the CJEU, as stated in the e-Date case, which brings us to the question: Was Thessaloniki the centre of the claimant’s interests? 

The court did not consider the e-date ruling; as a result, it did not examine the matter in accordance with its findings. Admittedly, the court had no reason to do it, since its jurisdiction was not challenged. The case demonstrates however the potential difficulties in defining the centre of main interests in similar cases: According to his Wikipedia web page, the claimant and his wife are now formally the majority shareholders of the largest Russian tobacco company. He also owns a group of companies located in Rostov, Russia. The shares of the football club, of which he’s the President, are owned by a Cypriot company. At the same time, he’s the manager of an old and well known hotel in Thessaloniki, he owns 82 % of the shares of the biggest Greek tobacco company, located in Xanthi (a city in the region of Thrace), and he is the owner of land and hotel resorts in the district of Chalkidiki. His personal web site is available in three languages (Russian, Greek and English), however he chose to register a domain name under the country code .ru. 

To sum up:
·         The court applied domestic law, unaware of the e-Date findings.
·         It obviously opted for an extensive interpretation, thus opening the door to forum actoris for all cases involving online defamation in the future.
·         There’s no reason to comment on possible actions for damages before courts of other Member States, because the claimant’s activities within the EU are limited to Greece.
·         A possible second action before Russian courts (e.g. Rostov) would not have to take into account the ruling of the CJEU.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Recognition of an Egyptian Khul’a divorce in Greece

Recognition of divorces from Arab countries is not exactly a daily routine for Greek judges. In this case the court examined an application for the recognition of a divorce through an agreement of the spouses, known as Khul’a, certified by an Egyptian notary public.

Thessaloniki First Instance Court 12223/2014, unreported


The applicant is living in the Thessaloniki district. She concluded a civil wedding with an Egyptian national at the Ministry of Interior in Cairo on October 2011. This marriage was declared as dissolved by virtue of a divorce certificate issued under the rule of Khul’a. In particular, the applicant produced to the Greek court a deed issued by a notary public in Cairo. She applied for the recognition of the above deed.


The court granted the application. It applied domestic rules, i.e. Articles 323 & 905 Code of Civil Procedure. The court stated that the dissolution of marriage is in accordance with the laws of Egypt, which is the law applicable in the case at hand, pursuant to Greek conflict of laws rules (Articles 16 & 14 Civil Code): The last common residence of the spouses before initiating divorce proceedings was Cairo, Egypt. Further on, the features of the notary deed (marriage dissolution certificate) resemble to a form of divorce in mutual consent. Therefore it does not contravene Greek public policy, given that the domestic legal order recognizes divorce in mutual consent (Article 1441 Civil Code). The rights of defense have been respected: both spouses declared their consent to dissolve the marriage before the notary, which leads to a final and conclusive act. Finally, no contrary decision was rendered and no application was pending in Greece.
For all the reasons above, the application was granted.


First of all, the court was right in applying domestic law: Unlike Egypt, Greece is not a signatory to the 1970 Hague Convention on the recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations. In addition, no bilateral convention exists between the two countries.

Digging in case law reports and pertinent data bases I discovered the existence of a sole similar decision in the past: Some 20 years ago, the Athens CoA dismissed the application for the recognition of a Sudanese Religious Court, by virtue of which divorce was rendered on the grounds of talaq (declaration in the presence of two witnesses). The appellate court found that:
·         This form of divorce is profoundly contrary to the Greek public order.
·         It was totally irrelevant for the CoA that the pending application was filed by the appellant, i.e. the divorced wife, although it acknowledged that the application was initiated quite probably for a legitimate cause.
·         Finally, the Athens court ruled that the Sudanese decision was to be additionally dismissed, because no evidence was produced as to its finality.

Coming back to the Thessaloniki ruling, it is evident that the court surpassed all of the above grounds for refusal.
·         The public policy barrier was exceeded by reference to the consensual nature of divorce.
·         The fact that the application was filed by the wife was underlined by the court.
·         The finality was confirmed through evidence furnished by the applicant, which convinced the court that by issuing the notary’s certificate the issue is not subject to any appeal.

There’s only one difference as to the facts of the cases above: Whereas the Athens CoA was confronted with a straightforward talaq case, i.e. a divorce initiated by the husband, the Thessaloniki court had to decide on a khul’a case. Being not exactly the most knowledgeable person on the matter, I searched on the WWW, and found out that the difference is the following: “The situation in which the wife initiates divorce proceedings is known as Khul’a. Once the husband agrees to divorce her in exchange for some money or the remission of her dower, the divorce is known as Talaq. It is as valid as the Talaq given by the man of his own initiative. Khul’a depends upon the agreement reached between the two parties… Once the husband agrees to Khul’a, he is asked to pronounce TALAQ in exchange for the above mentioned” [http://www.islamic-sharia.org/khula].

I’m confident that this decision will meet the approval of legal scholarship in Greece, which criticized the Athens CoA ruling as being not sufficiently flexible in cases where the application for recognition is filed by the wife. It remains to be seen whether this tendency will be followed in the future. Last but not least, I remind you of a similar judgment, once again by a Thessaloniki court, for which I have reported nearly two years ago [recognition of a rabbinical divorce, see http://icl-in-greece.blogspot.gr/2014_11_02_archive.html].