ATHENS — The Greek police on Saturday evening arrested the former artistic director of the country’s prestigious National Theater, who has been the target of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment that have buffeted the Greek arts world over the past weeks.
Dimitris Lignadis turned himself in at the Athens police headquarters shortly after being informed that a warrant had been issued for his arrest on rape charges, his lawyer, Nikos Georgouleas, said in a text message. Speaking later outside police headquarters, where his client was being held, Mr. Georgouleas said his client denied the charges.
“Everything that is being heard, he denies,” the lawyer said.
Mr. Lignadis is the most high-profile among the numerous directors and actors to have been named in a torrent of accusations that have rocked the Greek arts world. And the charges against him are among the most serious. He resigned from his post at the National Theater earlier this month after reports emerged suggesting that he had sexually harassed young actors, which he furiously denied. After his resignation, more reports emerged, alleging more serious abuse.
The upheaval in Greece’s arts world has come after an Olympic sailor, Sofia Bekatorou, accused a top sailing official last month of sexually abusing her in 1998. Her charges represented the first high-profile accusation of sexual assault and abuse of power in Greece since the #MeToo movement swept the world, bringing down powerful figures in sports, the media and beyond.
On Friday, Greece’s culture minister, Lina Mendoni, said she had asked the country’s Supreme Court to investigate a barrage of accusations of sexual assault, primarily those involving the abuse of minors.
In her remarks, Ms. Mendoni underlined the need for “catharsis” in Greece’s cultural sector and said that sexual abuse, particularly against minors, must not go unpunished.
The unfolding scandal has fueled a vehement political fight in Greece. Ms. Mendoni’s detractors blame her for appointing Mr. Lignadis to the National Theater in 2019. Defending her ministry’s actions, Ms Mendoni said that neither she nor the country’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, had known Mr Lignadis “personally,” and knew him only as an actor.
“Mr Lignadis is a dangerous man, but that has emerged now,” the minister said. She said she felt “deceived” by him.
“With deep acting talent he tried to convince us that he had nothing to do with all this,” Ms Mendoni said, referring to the accusations of abuse.
Mr. Mitsotakis, the prime minister, also referred to the mounting number of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment in the Greek performing arts during a televised meeting with President Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Friday.
“The sexual abuse of minors is the most abhorrent version of this phenomenon,” Mr. Mitsotakis said at the meeting. “In the public dialogue that has fortunately begun we must achieve the greatest possible political and social consensus if we are to tackle the problem,” he said.
Greek prosecutors are expected to start summoning witnesses next week for their broader inquiry into allegations of abuse and harassment in the Greek arts world, starting with the head of the country’s actors’ union, Spyros Bibilas, who said the union has been deluged with complaints by actors reporting alleged abuse.
In a statement issued after Mr Lignadis’ arrest on Saturday, Greece’s Justice Ministry said that judicial authorities “will do whatever is necessary in order to ensure everything comes to light on this very shady case and for justice to be done.”