Yesterday, we received the news that a Greek court of appeals has decided to release the hunger striker Kostas Sakkas on a thirty-thousand euro bail. Temporarily, at least, the continuing criminal assault on Greek society has been denied another victim. According to prison doctors at Nikaia General State Hospital, the twenty-nine year old Anarchist had, on Wednesday afternoon, reached the “final stage” of his life. Sakkas began his hunger strike on June 4th, in a final attempt to draw attention to his illegal, and seemingly indefinite pretrial detention. Greek law allows for an eighteen month maximum pretrial detention period, though under exceptional circumstances that period may be extended to thirty months of remand. June 4th marked thirty months. The Greek authorities celebrated in customary arbitrariness by remanding Kostas Sakkas for an additional six months.
Sakkas was arrested, along with Alexandros Mitroussias, in April 2010 leaving a rented Athens warehouse used to store firearms. In a statement released on May 29th, Sakkas confirms the details of his arrest. "Since the beginning," he writes, "I have admitted my connection with this place as well as the weapons found there. I have stated, since the first moment, that I am an anarchist and that my presence in this specific place was related to my political identity and the choices I make as a consequence of this." In December 2010, Sakkas was remanded to pretrial detention at Nafplio prison on charges of participation in a terrorist organization and aggravated possession of weapons. Four months later—a year after his initial arrest—Greek authorities would charge, and further remand, Kostas Sakkas on charges of active membership in the outlawed, armed anarchist movement Conspiracy of Fire Cells (R.O. CCF). While a proud and unrepentant anarchist, this is a charge Sakkas vigorously denies; not, he maintains, "to avoid the vengeful, punitive odyssey that the bourgeois justice reserves for all those accused of being members of that organization, but simply because that’s how it is."
Rather than bring Kostas Sakkas to trial on charges related to the 2010 incident, the Greek authorities have instead allowed his case to become "one more exceptional event in the sea of exceptions that make up everyday reality...in Greece." That Greece is, however tenuously, a European Union member cannot be overlooked in our assessment of the Sakkas affair. In 1996, under pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, Greece adoped Law 2408/1996, which prohibited breaking up a single charge into multiple charges, as a tactic of avoiding limitation by the eighteen month pretrial detention period. Yet this is exactly the Kafkaesque situation in which Kostas Sakkas finds himself. As he reached the eighteen month limit to his pretrial detention on the April 2011 charges (membership in the Conspiracy of Fire Cells), Sakkas was charged anew with participating in 160 firebombings claimed by the CCF. This, despite the CCF's denial, and an admitted lack of any evidence tying Sakkas himself to incidents. According to his lawyer, Marina Daliani, “such a direct and cynical violation of the Code of Penal Procedure, the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) concerning remand hasn’t happened in 17 years (since law 2408/1996 is in effect).”
Since 2008, successive Greek governments have used coercion to systematically dismantle the Greek welfare state and expropriate Greek wealth, as a condition for maintaining coveted membership in the European Union. The Greek debt crisis and the forced Austerity that has followed was, according to the European leadership and their Greek Pasok and New Democracy handmaidens, a simple matter of honoring contracts. The Greek bankers had been keeping two books and—tragically, with much hand-wringing—now was time for the Greek people to pay the debt. Four years into the debt crisis, we now know it wasn't caused by Greek deception, and won't be cured by continued austerity. Likewise, we should all be abundantly aware of EU dissimulation on the matter of human rights. Just as there are economic conventions for maintaining membership in the Eurozone, so too are there conventions governing the treatment of prisoners, articulated in the European Convention on Human Rights, to which all member states are bound signatories.
Four years of unstaunched austerity cuts, mass unemployment, hunger, homelessness, and now the spectre of rising right-wing violence. To secure the continued insouciance of the Greek majority, the authorities have chosen to suppress a radical, intractable minority. Not the racist, anti-immigrant and violent Golden Dawn movement, which is everyday making its presence felt in Parliament and on the streets, but the vibrant and established revolutionary Greek left. They have done this with the silent approval of the European Union and their Troika overseers, from whom we hear the refrain: Sacrifies must be made! Articles 5 and 6 of the ECHR and Greek civil liberties, first on the block; bankers to the back.
The political persecution of anarchists in Greece is particularly troubling in this time of political and social upheaval. Though avowed enemies of the state, Greek anarchists are often alone on the front lines combating the deliberate subjection of Greece to the fascism of international finance. The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), the largest Greek opposition party in parliament, has a sense of the essential role anarchists play on the distressed streets of Athens and Thessaloniki. When they raised the issue of Kostas Sakkas during parliamentary session, they were rebuked by a New Democracy spokesman: SYRIZA should "respect the institutions and stop defending everybody accused of anarchy and terrorism." But what of those institutions? According to Kostas Sakkas:
They are the same mechanisms, and the same persons behind them, who are actual perpetrators of the legitimacy of forced return to work for strikers; the same who are primary responsible for the thousands of property auctions and the homeless, for the abolition of labor demands, for the unemployed, for the abolition of social benefits, for the thousands living below the poverty line, for hundreds of suicides every year by those who, unable to cope decently, put an end to their lives; they are actual perpetrators of the legitimacy of declaring people illegal and piling them up in camps; responsible of classifying tortures and beatings at police stations, accidental gun discharges, the silencing of anti-regime media as legitimate…
They are responsible for creating a cemetery society in the name of law, and when it’s necessary, for establishing a cemetery society outside the law… Steeped in hypocrisy and nastiness, despicable to both the devotees of bourgeois justice and its detractors and ideological enemies.
Kostas Sakkas is free. But freedom on thirty thousand euro bail after over year of illegal imprisonment is not justice. Justice for Kostas Sakkas would be a free and fair trial. No trial, no justice.
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Anarchism, Debt, European Union, Greece, Justice, Prison