Protest at the courtyard of the House of Parliament yesterday resulted in the arrest of the activists (phot.provo.gr)
Despite Europe’s fascination with Syriza and the idea of the rise of the left, the current reality of the penal system in Greece is a far cry from all the media generated hype, solely used for the purpose of risisng the party’s popularity.
Neoliberal penality in Greece, firstly introduced by former Minister of Justice C. Athanasiou, a far-right adherent of the American penal system, has not been defeated by the radical left’s latest electoral victory. Anarchist activists were arrested on the spot for protesting peacefully just yesterday, while the police has arbitrarily remanded family members of convicted anarchists with no evidence at hand for engaging in any unlawful activities. During the hungerstrike of Nikos Romanos back in December 2014, Syriza expressed a great level of support and commitment to the struggle for prisoners’ rights. On the contrary, the indifference shown in this instance is reminiscent of former conservative rulers as the party’s reaction to pressing issues of the penal system seems to deviate from what was generally expected from the radical left: respect for human rights and human life.
Twenty-one hungerstrikers currently risk their lives to improve conditions of incarceration through the abolition of Type C prisons, support the right to fair trials by redefining the purpose of DNA material in court, decarceration of disabled prisoner Savvas Xiros, decriminalization of social movements and protesting through abolition of the ”hoodie law” and release of the remanded family members of participants in the organization Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei.
Regarding the latter, Panos Lambrou, member of Syriza’s political secretariat made the following statement during an interview on OmniaTV’s program ”Prison Diaries” : ”Did anyone ever expect that a prisoner’s mother and wife would be remanded today, essentially because of the personal relationship with the accused? There is no other evidence, I am not aware of any kind of evidence apart from the fact of the personal relationship and kinship”. He agreed that the demands of the hunger-strikers are fair, but claimed they constitute a small part of the necessary requirements for the transformation of the penal system. He also mentioned that legislative processes are lengthy and despite Syriza’s alliance with the demands, an immediate solution will not be provided. On March 31st, the verdict of an appellate court ruled the release of Christos and Gerasimos’ mother, who chose to stay imprisoned until the release of Gerasimos’ wife.
Due to the prolonged effects of the ongoing hunger-strike, serious health issues emerged leading to the hospitalization of many hunger-strikers. Dr. Olga Kosmopoulou, one of the volunteer doctors who regularly examine the hunger strikers, spoke during an event organized by the Initiative of Prisoners Rights today and underlined the critical condition of the hungerstrikers. ”The idleness of the government and the judicial authorities is impressive” she says, adding that ”The delays, for example in the case of Athena Tsakalou and Gerasimos’ wife could be easily classified as torture”.
”This passivity is a thing of the past that exists until today. Personally, I am shocked. I did not expect former co-fighters for democratic rights and prisoners’ rights, people that we struggled together for the same causes all these years, to be standing on the other side and pay the same level of attention as the previous government”. Dr. Olga Kosmopoulou
The hunger-strikers experience significant weight loss, low blood pressure, postural hypotension, bradycardia, metabolic acidosis and competent doctors have warned of severe deregulation of organ functions as well as the peril of heart failrure. Apart from that, already existing medical conditions are exacerbated by the hunger strike, such as the bronchial asthma of Phoevos Charissis. Olga Economidou now weighs 42 kg (92 lbs), suffers from low blood pressure and her insulin levels range between 52 and 70 indicating the danger of a hypoglycaemic shock. Damianos Bolano, weighed 90 kilograms (198 lbs)at the beginning of the hungerstrike and reached 73 kilograms by day 28 (160 lbs) while a skin infection has spread all over his body. Michalis Nikolopoulos is in extremely critical condition, which according to reports he might not be able to recover from completely. Nikolopoulos has been on the verge of heart failure three times over past week and was repeatedly administered atropine. His blood pressure keeps dropping after falling asleep and doctors warn that even if the hunger strike ended today, he would still be in danger of going into cardiac arrest. He has been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit earlier this evening.
The hungerstrike gave birth to a wide solidarity movement which proclaims its support through various actions :rallies, protests and occupations. The Initiative of Prisoners Rights and the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry also declared their solidarity with the hunger strikers. Various spaces have been occupied by activists such as the leftist radio station stokokkino.gr, the radio station Antenna in Patras, Syriza’s political offices in many Greek cities and the Athens Law School. The latest occupation of the Rectorate of the University of Athens is in solidarity with hunger strikers in an effort to pressurize the government to fulfill their demands. Yesterday, members of the anarchist group ”Rouvikonas” gathered outside the House of Parliament holding a banner and threw around informative pieces of paper while chanting slogans, among which”The passion for freedom is stronger than all cells”. Despite the fact that activists departed after two minutes, they were arrested by the police right outside . Mainstream media turned the peaceful protest into a national issue of security breach which is a spin of events and in accordance with the views of far right politicians. The following footage shows exactly what happened.
It is noteworthy that Speaker of Parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou mentioned the following through the Parliament’s press release:
” Around 13:15 approximately 15 people entered the Parliament’s courtyard, with their faces revealed and in a peaceful way they expressed their protest for Type C prisons as well as their support to prisoners staging a lengthy hungerstrike…
According to all the evidence and the records kept,nothing worrisome happened and this protest belongs to the respective constitutional right of citizens. The citizens did not attempt to enter the parliament and they did not have such capability as prevention measures were taken for the protection of the building and those inside it by the Guards of Parliament. The citizens departed willingly through the courtyard right after their protest ended and under the supervision of the Guards of Parliament. Any effort to spread panic and feelings of unsafety can act as provocation and besett situtations at a time when discussions in the parliament are expected, regarding the legislative initiative of the Ministry of Justice and while the lives of imprisoned hungerstrikers are in danger”.
The bill for the abolition of Type C prisons was submitted in Parliament today. As the wife of Gerasimos Tsakalos is still remanded the remaining political prisoners continue the hungerstrike. Olga Economidou wrote from hospital:
”This time we fight for them. So they won’t become collateral damage in a war they never participated.”