Former Greek President Christos Sartzetakis has died at the age of 92

ATHENS, Greece – Former Greek President Christos Sartzetakis, a judge widely respected for resisting pressure from military dictators who imprisoned him without trial in the late 1960s, has died after a long hospitalization. He was 92.

Sartzetakis had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Athens’ Laiko Hospital and died of respiratory failure in the early hours of Thursday, the hospital said in a statement.

Sartzetakis was born in April 1929 and held the largely ceremonial office of President of Greece from 1985 to 1990, a politically turbulent period in the country.

“During the period of 1989-90, in an atmosphere of intense political tension, his work on forming a government was impeccable,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, expressing his condolences to Sartzetakis’ family.

Sartzetakis first gained notoriety for his role as coroner in the 1963 assassination of politician Grigoris Lambrakis by right-wing extremists, and was praised for defying intense political pressure during the case. Lambrakis’ murder sparked mass protests and a political crisis.

“In difficult times for the country and democracy, (Sartzetakis) handled the case of the Lambrakis murder as an investigative magistrate with exemplary independence and legal ethos, and paid a heavy price for that attitude during the years of the junta,” current President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in a statement. “Later, as President of the Republic, he performed his duties with conscientiousness, commitment and a high sense of responsibility.”

Born in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, Sartzetakis studied law and entered the judiciary in 1955. During the military dictatorship in 1968 he was dismissed from the judiciary, arrested, tortured and imprisoned without trial. He was eventually released in 1971 and restored to the judiciary after the fall of the junta in 1974, rising to the rank of Supreme Court Justice in 1982. In 1985 he was appointed President by the socialist PASOK party and held this position until May 1990.

Sartzetakis leaves behind his wife and their daughter.

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