Trial of the Six

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Photo from the Great Fire of Smyrna
Plastiras with Gonatas and political advisor Georgios Papandreou during the coup

The Trial of the Six (Greek: Δίκη των Έξι, Díki ton Éxi) or the Execution of the Six was the trial for treason, in late 1922, of the anti-venizelists officials held responsible for the Greek military defeat in Asia Minor. The trial culminated in the death sentence and execution of six of the nine defendants.

Background[edit]

Further information: 1922 in Greece

On September 9, 1922, Turkish military and guerilla forces entered the city of İzmir in Asia Minor, which was previously mandated to Greece by the Treaty of Sèvres. The pro-royalist government in Athens, watching awkwardly the events, had lost the control. The retreating Greek "Army of the East" abandoned Smyrna, on September 8, the day before the Turkish Army moved in. Hundreds of thousands of Greek residents of Asia Minor had fled to Smyrna seeking transportation across the sea in order to flee. However, transportation arrived late and in too small numbers relative to the number of people trying to flee, resulting chaos and panic. The military loss of the Asia Minor land mandate by Greece to Turkey and the chaotic and bloody evacuation of Greeks previously living in the area, who spent the rest of their lives as refugees, is known as the "Asia Minor Catastrophe" (Greek: Μικρασιατική Καταστροφή, Mikrasiatiki Katastrophi).

Coup[edit]

Further information: 11 September 1922 Revolution

During this time a military coup d'état unfolded in Athens and the Aegean Islands against the royalist government, partly as an angry civil response to the defeat in the fields of battle. On September 11, 1922, Colonels Nikolaos Plastiras and Stylianos Gonatas formed a "Revolutionary Committee" that demanded the abdication of the King Constantine (considered the main responsible for the defeat), the resignation of the royalist government, and the punishment of those responsible for the military disaster. The coup was aided by venizelist General Theodoros Pangalos, then stationed in Athens. Backed by massive demonstrations in the capital, the coup was successful: two days later, when Plastiras and Gonatas disembarked in the port of Laurium with the military units they commanded, King Constantine abdicated in favour of his first-born son, George, and sailed for Sicily, never to return; the government ministers were arrested and the new king consented to a new administration, one favorable to the coup.

Trial[edit]

Scene from the trial.

On October 12, 1922, the junta constituted an "extraordinary military tribunal", which convened on October 31 and carried out a two-week-long trial, in which the five most senior members of the overthrown administration (Dimitrios Gounaris, Georgios Baltatzis (el), Nikolaos Stratos, Nikolaos Theotokis (el), and Petros Protopapadakis) and General Georgios Hatzianestis (last commander-in-chief of the Asia Minor campaign) were tried for high treason, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were executed a few hours after the verdict was handed, and before its publication, on 15 November 1922. Two defendants, Admiral Michail Goudas (el) and General Xenophon Stratigos, received a life imprisonment sentence. Τhe ex-king's brother, Prince Andrew, also a senior commanding officer in the failed campaign, had been indicted as well but was in Corfu at the time. He was arrested, transported to Athens, tried by the same tribunal a few days later, and found guilty of the same crimes, but was recognised as being "completely lacking in military command experience", a mitigating if ironic circumstance. He was sentenced to death first and then banishment from Greece for life. The prince and his family (which included his infant son – carried in a vegetable wooded cot – Prince Philip, later the Duke of Edinburgh) were evacuated on a British warship on December 4, leaving Corfu island for Brindisi. Being the chief of the armed forces at the time however, they considered him responsible, although everyone was meddling in the expedition. The more likely version then is that British warships gathered in the Saronic gulf, off from Athens and demanded to allow him to leave or, possibly risk bombardment, hence the ironic excuse above.

Punishments[edit]

Aftermath[edit]

European states strongly objected to the executions; in response the United Kingdom withdrew its ambassador to Greece for some time.[citation needed]
The executions were a kind of shock for the conservatives, while they exacerbated the conflict between the royalists and the liberals the next decades, at least until the establishment of the 4th of August Regime and later the outbreak of the Greek Civil War.