Wednesday 6 February 2013

Descent into barbarism

It is with a heavy heart that I yet again, find myself writing about the abuses of basic human rights in Greece and about the climate of fear that is being created by the present coalition government. On 23 January I wrote about the fear that permeates everyday life, and again, on 2 January on the government's policy of no tolerance to lawlessness which is in fact rhetoric to disguise the persecution of ever larger portions of society.

The maltreatment of four young men suspected of robbing a bank in the North of Greece is the latest instance of savage beatings in police cells. Manipulated mugshots of the men, in a crude attempt to disguise their injuries, were published. Despite digitally altering the photos, the suspects' bruised eyes, lips and throats were clearly visible. Public Order Minister Mr Dendias said that the mugshots of the detainees had been altered so that the young men could be recognised by the public. The police maintain that the detainees were not beaten in police cells,  but sustained their injuries in the course of their arrest. The mother of one of the young men has a different story to tell. She has told the press that her son, thrown on the floor of his cell, hands cuffed behind his back, with a hood over his head was beaten for four continuous hours. The lawyer of the four corroborates this.

Greek police terrorist arrests

'We are profoundly concerned about the recurring allegations of torture and ill-treatment by Greek police', announced Amnesty International yesterday.  'The Greek authorities cannot just photoshop their problems away. This culture of impunity needs to be stopped'.

Twenty-year old Nikos Romanos has made the following statement: 'My motives are political. I consider myself to be a prisoner of war. I do not consider myself to be a victim and will consequently not prosecute those who tortured me. My wish is that what I have been subjected to will sensitise people to what is going on'.

Nikos Romanos was a close friend of Alexis Grigoropoulos, the 16-year old who was shot dead by police 3 years ago when he went to Exarheia to celebrate his birthday. Those who are close to Nikos say that he is a different person since he witnessed the murder of his close friend.

Greece Police Brutality.JPEG

When she saw the swollen face of her son on television, Mrs Michaelidi, mother of Yannis, did not recognise him: 'they are making a mistake, this is not my son', she declared. When she was subsequently allowed to visit him in his cell, the minute she saw his distorted face she fainted. 'I am proud of my son, he is sticking to his principles. He is an activist, not a terrorist', she announced later. People who know Yannis, a student at Athens University, talk of a gentle boy who is loved by his teachers and contemporaries and who is a grade A student.

The four have made the following statement: 'We did not rob the bank for personal gain. As anarchists we see the robbing of the temples of capitalism as a conscious act of resistance and part of the totality of our revolutionary activity'.

Mr Makis Balaouras, member of Syriza, said:  'when I saw the photographs of those poor young men I was reminded of the days of the military junta when I was beaten by the police in the cells. When photographs of my pulped face were published in the papers, the police maintained that I had fallen down the stairs. It is unfortunate that things like this are happening today and they are totally unacceptable in a democracy. In an imitation democracy, like the one we are living in today however, things like this are of no consequence'.

Mr Panagoulis, MP for Syriza made the following statement in front of television cameras: 'I have scars from when I was tortured during the years of the junta. Here, I will show you the scars from cigarette burns on my arms. When I saw the faces of those poor young people, it all came flooding back. What has this kind of behaviour to do with democracy?'

Greek police have already faced accusations of torture following protests

There are a number of questions that are puzzling me. Why have the touched-up photos been published? Is it  to convince the public that these young people are guilty so that by the time they come to stand trial their guilt is a foregone conclusion? What has happened to 'presumed innocent until proven guilty'? We are told that the mugshots were altered so that the public could recognise the detainees. The irony of this does not escape me as it is a firm recognition on the part of the government that those young people were tortured to such an extent as to be otherwise unrecognisable.

Another story hit the papers this morning. Giorgos Livathinos, an actor who is rehearsing Homer's Iliad was arrested because a prop, a knife, was found in his possession. Despite the fact that he tried to explain the purpose of the object, he was arrested and detained overnight. He said he could not sleep all night in his cell because of the screams of three non-white detainees who had been arrested for car theft, who were beaten and tortured by the police. 'At one point, the screaming got so bad that they moved me to another cell so that I would not be aware of what was going on. This is something I will never forget - it was so barbaric'.

It is time that the excuse of public safety stopped being used as an alibi for the abuse of power, grievous bodily harm, torture, the abuse of human rights, and the stripping of people's dignity. Barbaric abuse of prisoners is totally unacceptable - it is resulting in a climate of uncertainty and fear and the loss of any trust in the government and its police force.

People have started referring to Mr Dendias as the 'Minister of Torture' and people keep asking the question: how come the robbers of a bank are arrested and tortured, and yet the robbers of a whole nation are walking free?


  • Eleutherotypia
  • Kyriakatiki
  • The Guardian

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