Despite the agreement of the majority of political parties in Greece, including Pasok of the coalition government and the Communist Party, with the amendments provided by Syriza and the Democratic Left regarding the use of an ankle tether to ensure the prisoner’s compliance with the conditions of furloughs during yesterday’s parliamentary procedures, the Minister of Justice Charalambos Athanasiou denied to allow the hunger striker attend his classes in college. However, Athanasiou submitted reforms on the amendments today at noon, including a condition that dictates enrolment on distance learning mode for 1/3 of the classes of each semester. The MPs voted in favour of educational furloughs for all prisoners.
‘It is a victory of representative democracy!’ cried out Zoe Konstantopoulou, Ivy League graduate and MP for the radical left Syriza, and called Nikos Romanos to end the hunger strike. Mr Kaklamanis MP of Pasok, continued to take advantage of this ‘victory’ in order to brand a political party that dragged the country into despair as humanitarian and democratic. It is truly appaling to witness today’s events become campaign material. No, it was not a victory of representative democracy! This is the victory of the struggle of prisoners who put their lives on the line to support the fundamental right to education in prison, the victory of resistance within a specific poitical framework against the corrosion of a prison system designed to punish, alienate and marginalize individuals. This is the victory of Nikos Romanos, Yiannis Mihailedes, Iraklis Kostaris, Andreas-Dimitris Bourzoukos and Demetris Politis.
Public support towards Romanos has grown as over 500 journalists and 300 artists co- signed letters of support to declare their solidarity to the hunger striker and ask the authorities to reconsider the provision of educational furloughs to Nikos Romanos. The supporting group of artists announced that ‘Against every form of injustice and violation of human rights and for every fair demand to education and to life, we, as artists, as free citizens, as agents of human expression and political beings, must publicly take a stance to the serious demand of Nikos Romanos.” In Italy, the mothers of activists murdered by the state or fascist gangs or imprisoned on account of their political beliefs, including the mother of Carlos Giuliani, sent their solidarity to Nikos in writing. The letter read :”Nikos we are with you. Resist. Do not offer them your life. It’s what they want. They will write it off the very next moment. They are not afraid of your death. They are afraid of you staying alive. Resist, Nikos.’‘
Occupations in solidarity have taken place all over the country. Currently, over thirty buildings comprising of labour centres, town halls and university faculties across Greece, including the medical school in Larissa, are occuppied until Nikos’ demand to education is fulfilled. Solidarity demos and protests had been scheduled for the next three days in over ten cities in Greece, a sign that the level of public support for the prisoner’s right to education would not abate.
Yesterday, Nikos Romanos’ appeal to the Supreme Court was overruled and the prisoner decided to escalate his protest and begin a thirst strike by complete abstinence from fluids. His lawyer Fraggiscos Ragousis, announced today that Nikos did not have the energy to hold a pen and write an announcement himself and confimed that indeed the prisoner had not taken any fuids since this morning. Nikos has lost over 20 kilograms of body weight during the hunger strike and only injested water to remain hydrated. The denial of his appeal reflects the attempt to criminalize his political ideology as an anarchist and the creation of a public threat based on broken windows that serves the securitization of the country from a political perspective, meaning that the social revolutionary individuals and movements are portrayed as threats for the country’s security by the government and subsequently by the media serving its interests. This is reinforced by the rigid security measures and the pointless presence of riot police surrounding the hospital, given that the ”public threat” is an unarmed 21 year old who has difficulty standing on his feet, following thirty days of hunger strike. As the authorities created this spectacle to satisfy the middle-class gaze, it would have been wiser of them to think that there is no middle class left in a country where 40% of the population are estimated to live below the poverty level. Last night, the hunger-striker’s father George Romanos, called for a solidarity gathering at 8 am this monring outiside the medical facility where Nikos Romanos is hospitalized.
At the same time, lenience towards police brutality is evident as charges were not filed against the officers who assaulted Nikos Romanos following his arrest. The police has justified the sustained injuries of the suspects as results of clashes between them and the police, however, during an early press conference such allegations were dismissed.
During yesterday’s session at the Greek Parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou compared the violation of the rights of the hunger striker to the favourable treatment of the suspects in the Energa scandal, a corporate crime involving embezzelment of public funds of 270 million euro. Despite the rigid denial to permit Romanos’ lawful right to education, the Minister of Justice intends to aid the release of suspects in the Energa case. However, the involvement of the state does not stop there. The legal representation of the main suspect of embezzelement is Makis Voridis – an MP of New Democracy, member of the coalition government. Konstantopoulou stressed that the amount of money in this case surpasses what Romanos and his comrades could have possibly stolen from the bank, which renders the favourable treatment of the Energa suspects unjustified and proves that the punitiveness on the Romanos case is solely based on his political beliefs, compromising the principle of equality before the law.
Today, we witnessed the success of a struggle for justice, but we are still asphyxiating for a breath of freedom as the Greek Guantanamo is on its way and those detained in the Prison Hospital in Korydallos have still not found relief. The atrocity of prison, the purpose of an institution of destruction of human beings was exposed by the hunger strikers for what it truly is and all the harm it’s capable to inflict. Bourzoukos and Politis had signed their letter with the phrase ”Together until the end, together until the Victory”. I’m glad it was a victory and not the end.