Nikos Romanos and Iraklis Kostaris have been on hunger strike since the 28th of October and the 10th of November respectively. They both demand the right to education, which they earned through the achievement of satisfactory grades at the Panhellenic University Entry exams, that they sat along with students from all over the country. Korydallos Penitentiary, has unlawfully denied to recognise this fundamental right to them, despite the fact that they are entitled to educational leaves of absence from prison in order to attend their classes. The effect of a country leaving the welfare state and restructuring society based on principles of neoliberal capitalism, is clearly evident in the emergence of a harsh and vengeful penal system.
Political prisoner Iraklis Kostaris, a former member of the marxist Revolutionary Organization 17N, is one of the two hunger strikers and a final year student at the Techologial University of Piraeus. Despite receiving leaves of absence for the past three years, he never violated any of the furlough conditions. The 47 year old, had to be transferred to the hospital on the 21st of November, after three weeks of hunger strike, as he was in critical condition. Today, on his 31st day of hunger strike, it was announced that his application to be transfered to an open prison was not accepted, but will be re-examined in two months. His return to a maximum security cell in Korydallos Penitentiary, the most notorious prison in the country is worrying, as the medical staff there are inadequate and the prison hospital, a facility overpopulated at a rate of 300%, resembles more of a recovery ward due to the lack of medical equipment.
Nikos Romanos, a 21 year old, would be a freshman in college this year if the Prison Council did not use this unlawful tactic of depriving him of educational furloughs. Nikos was hospitalized on the 24th of November after suffering a severe hypoglycemic shock. During an interview over the radio, his doctor, Lina Vergopoulou, stated: ‘His condition is not critical just for his health, but for his life….He could be having a heart or renal failure any day now. This situation must be made public.’. The doctor also announced: ‘Nikos is determined to take it to the end. His comrades are very supportive and more people will be joining the hunger strike on Monday’. When Nikos was 15, he witnessed the murder of his unarmed friend, also aged 15, by a police officer in a central location in Athens that sparked an uprising against the police.
Another prisoner, Yiannis Mihailidis, began a hunger strike on the 17th of November, in solidarity with the two hunger strikers. In an announcement that was published on AthensIndymedia, he stated: ‘The self-destructive act of hunger strike is worth-while for any demand a prisoner might have, whether it’s living conditions, his own dignity, or his freedom. And in this case my comrade and brother Nikos Romanos put his life on the line to find channels out of this asphyciating condition of captivity, so I looked for a way to express my solidarity in actions’. Yiannis was transferred to the hospital today, as he was diagnosed with bradycardia, a condition where the heart-rate is too slow and not ennough oxygen is transfered in the bloodstream.