Writers urge Athens to shield Greek scholar

THE PLIGHT of the Greek scholar who has received death threats for describing the existence of a Slavic-speaking Macedonian community within Greece, has triggered an appeal to the Greek Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou, by International Pen, the writers' group.

The case of Anastasia Karakasidou, 38, which was first reported in the Independent last Tuesday, has been the subject of an urgent alert by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a computer-linked network of organisations dedicated to protecting writers who have been threatened for their views.

The appeal has been circulated to Article 19, Index on Censorship, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, with requests to contact the Greek government. Thomas Niles, the United States ambassador to Greece, has offered to intercede on behalf of Ms Karakasidou, according to diplomatic sources in Athens.

Death threats against Ms Karakasidou, a Guggenheim Fellowship scholar at Harvard University and an assistant professor of anthropology at New York's City University, first came from the Greek community in the US. She was also threatened in Greece, where she researches the Slavic- Macedonian community.

Threats against her have continued. On Wednesday she received an anonymous letter, postmarked Athens, threatening her with rape. The extreme right- wing Greek newspaper Stohos has increased the danger facing her. It published her address in Salonika and her car registration number.

In its letter to Mr Papandreou, International Pen called upon Athens 'to provide protection for Ms Karakasidou' and to prosecute those inciting the attacks. There has been no official reaction to the death threats so far.

Slavic speakers in Greece number anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000 and consider themselves to be 'Macedonians', ethnically linked to Slavs in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.