Three protesters who disrupted the Beijing 2022 Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremony were detained overnight in Greece and were expected to stand trial last week until it was postponed without any explanation ©Getty Images

A hearing involving three human rights protesters who interrupted the lighting of the Olympic Flame in Athens last October has been delayed following accusations that Greek authorities did not want to embarrass China on the eve of the Winter Olympics here.

The trail was originally due to take place on Thursday (February 3) - one day before the Opening Ceremony of the Games at the Beijing National Stadium. 

Lawyers from Justice Abroad had travelled from Britain to Greek capital Athens - where the disturbance happened on October 18 - to attend the trial only for it to be postponed.

"Our pleas to the court for the case to be heard fell on deaf ears," said Michael Polak of Justice Abroad.

"They pushed it into the long grass so as not to have to deliver a decision before the Beijing Olympics."

Greek lawyer Antonis Bachourus added: "They could have prioritised the case, given its sensitivity and the seriousness of the accusations, but chose not to."

As insidethegames exclusively revealed in October, Chemi Lhamo, Jason Leith and Fern MacDougal were arrested and detained overnight after they waved Tibetan flags and a banner with the message "NO GENOCIDE GAMES" at the ceremony in Ancient Olympia where the Olympic Flame was being kindled.

The three protesters were demonstrating against China hosting the Winter Olympics due to its human rights record.

"The protest itself must have lasted less than a minute," Leith, of Free Tibet told The Guardian.

"Our aim was never to cause damage, and it is absurd to say that we did.

"All we had was a flag and a banner.

"We just wanted our voice to be heard in solidarity with all those oppressed by the Chinese Communist party."

The three Tibetan-rights activists have been charged with "destruction of a monument", according to Free Tibet.

Plamen Tonchev, head of the Asia unit at the Institute of International Economic Relations in Athens, claimed Greek authorities are "very reluctant to embarrass China", citing "political reasons" for the delay in the hearing.

"China’s strong influence over Greece’s leadership and institutions should be worrying for all Greek people, who have a strong history and belief in standing up against totalitarianism," added Tonchev.

The Lighting Ceremony was not significantly disrupted and the Flame was successfully ignited by High Priestess Xanthi Georgiou and received by skier Ioannis Antoniou, the first bearer in the Relay.

The Ceremony was organised under the auspices of the Hellenic Olympic Committee.

IOC President Thomas Bach insisted at the Lighting Ceremony that only "political neutrality ensures that the Olympic Games can stand above and beyond the political differences that existed in ancient times, as well as today".

China has faced accusations of using forced Uyghur labour, operating a mass surveillance programme, detaining thousands in internment camps, carrying out forced sterilisations and intentionally destroying Uyghur heritage in the Xinjiang region.

The Chinese Government has repeatedly hit out at the allegations, claiming camps are training centres for stamping out Islamist extremism and separatism.

In protest to the staging of the Winter Olympics, Free Tibet staged an alternative Opening Ceremony to coincide with the official one that happened here.