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Irreverent art teacher called before disciplinary committee

George Gavriel2

Art teacher and controversial artist Giorgos Gavriel, who found himself under fire last year over his work that was deemed to insult religious and national symbols, was asked to appear before a public education disciplinary committee, reports said on Tuesday.

Public school headmaster Gavriel, whose artworks have raised much controversy last year, was summoned by the committee for a disciplinary hearing next month over the matter.

According to daily Politis, based on the charge sheet, Gavriel is accused of acting or behaving in such a way that he failed to perform his main duties. The committee pointed out that the fact that Gavriel has repeatedly published on his personal website and in the daily press paintings that insult and offend with their content the state, religious institutions, religious symbols and historical/national figures of Cyprus is not justified by the position he holds as  teacher.

He is also accused of not complying with the instructions of the competent authority, and also that his actions in presenting his beliefs in the paintings in an insulting way could shake the public’s trust in the whole educational community. Gavriel could be dismissed if he is found at fault.

Akel on Tuesday accused the government of conservatism and of daily slipping to the practices of “regimes”.

“It is a shame for the government as a whole to persistently persecute an artist-educator for the works he has created outside of his working hours,” the party said, calling on the government realise “this is the 21st century and not the Middle Ages.”

A probe was launched by the education ministry after Gavriel released a series of paintings, he dubbed as “anti- systemic art” portraying, among other things, religious and nationally celebrated figures being urinated or defecated on by animals, and portraying Jesus naked.

The ministry had said at the time Gavriel’s paintings had created “a sore impression” and caused great upset among pupils, parents and public opinion. The archbishop had called for his dismissal while Gavriel had received many threats on social media from people who found his painting provocative and insulting.

The education ministry did not back down not even after concerns expressed by the chair of the European Parliament’s committee on culture and education Sabine Verheyen. In a letter to Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou last June, Verheyen noted that Gavriel did not make use of his artistic work when carrying out his duties as a teacher but published them on his personal Facebook account.

Irrespective of any disagreement with Gavriel’s artistic choices, his freedom of speech and expression is safeguarded by Article 19 of the Cyprus constitution and article 11 of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights, she pointed out. Verheyen expressed hope that any unlawful indictments against him would be immediately lifted.

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