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Greek goes to war over image rights July 5, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, Turkey.
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Pot of yoghurt and Minas Karaztoglou

Finding that his image was being used to sell Turkish yoghurt, an elderly Greek man has taken it as a personal affront and has set his sights on the dairy involved.

Beneath what must be one of the most luxuriant moustaches on the planet, Minas Karatzoglou smiles a gap-toothed grin and pats his leather waistband.

It is packed with an armoury of family heirlooms – 19th Century flintlock pistols and a curved dagger.

“These guns have killed Turks,” he says, his clear blue eyes twinkling.

Mr Karatzoglou, who is 74, had come down from the mountains of Delphi in central Greece to Athens, in the traditional costume worn by his grandfather and great grandfather, to make an important statement.

They both took part in the War of Independence, which began in 1821, ended centuries of Ottoman rule, and led to the formation of the modern Hellenic state.

His white kilt contains 400 pleats – one for every year of Turkish occupation. It is a skirt with a grudge.

‘No bigger insult’

Given such a colourful family history, it is little wonder that Mr Karatzoglou has gone to war over a pot of Turkish yoghurt.

Minas Karaztoglou (right) and his lawyer

Mr Karaztoglou’s lawyers say the Swedish firm’s boss could face jail

“I got upset because they were using my image without my authorisation. But I also got upset because they were advertising the yoghurt as Turkish,” he told the BBC.

“I am Greek. I feel Greek. I’m from Delphi, which is an internationally renowned location for Greek history.”

Mr Karatzoglou has launched a series of legal proceedings in Greek courts against Lindahl’s Dairy of Jonkoping in southern Sweden.

A civil suit demands compensation of 6.9m euros (£6m). His lawyers are also pursuing a criminal prosecution against the yoghurt firm’s chief executive, Anders Lindahl, alleging misuse of personal data.

“This is not a frivolous case,” says Athenian lawyer Mr Dimitris Dimitriou. “It is very serious. I think there is no bigger insult for a Greek than to be called a Turk.”

His colleague says a misuse of personal data offence is punishable by five to 10 years in prison.

Lindahl’s have rejected the compensation claim as unrealistic, and say they are not concerned about the threat of prison because the image was purchased in good faith.

Just desserts

Thomas Axelsson, a spokesman for Lindahl’s in Jonkoping, told BBC World Service’s Europe Today programme: “We have an agreement with a [Spanish] photo agency from where we bought this picture just to use for commercial purposes, on our packages and on different products. We have also seen an agreement between this agency and the photographer, so in our opinion, it’s very clear that we have the rights we need.”

Mr Karatzoglou’s lawyers say they have no desire to put Mr Lindahl in jail and are willing to compromise.

“This company has made millions off Minas’ back,” said Mr Dimitriou.

One possible scenario proposed by the Greeks is that the word Turkish be removed from the yoghurt pot.

But according to Lindahl’s legal representative, that is not possible under trades descriptions rules, because the yoghurt is Turkish.

And so the room for compromise is limited.

Unless an out of court settlement is reached, Mr Karaztoglou’s lawyers will proceed with the civil and criminal suits with the aim of giving the Swedes what they think they deserve – their just desserts.

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