Monday 26 August 2013

Crimes of the State

The policies of the present Greek coalition government are reminiscent of what was happening in Weimar Germany in the 1930s, policies that contributed to the rise of fascism and the consequences that we all know of.

Minister for Law and Order, Mr Dendias, established the Xenios Zeus operation where under the name of 'hospitality' (the irony of this is staggering), thousands of people of colour are arrested, beaten and terrorised and taken to detention centres that have been condemned by human rights organisations throughout the world, but are called 'hospitality centres' in the warped rhetoric of this repressive government. In the name of this 'hospitality law' aimed at 'clearing' the country of illegal immigrants, even tourists are arrested and in some cases, beaten, because the colour of their skin is not white.

'Greece's failure to respect the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers is taking on the proportions of a humanitarian crisis... Greece is proving itself incapable of providing even the most basic requirements of safety and shelter to the thousands of asylum seekers and migrants arriving each year', said John Dalhuisen from Amnesty International in 2012.

There are now at least 5,000 people languishing in these internment camps which are being used for anyone who is 'different' as this policy has now been extended: the Greek government has just announced that the camp capacity is about to double.  The next victims were the drug users and now, it is the turn of transgender men and women who have been warned  to 'return to normal' , or else.....

The new Minister of Public Health's first 'achievement' is the re-establishing of a law that was scrapped earlier this year, law 39a/2012, which under the aegis of defending public health, states that anyone who is suspected of having the HIV virus can be arrested, tested without their permission and put under forced quarantine. The targets of this barbaric law are obvious: immigrants, gays, sex workers and anyone who is deemed to be 'different'. It is not unreasonable or far-fetched to compare what is happening in Greece at the moment with dictatorships where people are thrown in prisons or put in psychiatric hospitals for any kind of reason that the authorities deemed reasonable - sexual preference for instance.

Hundreds of sex workers were arrested last May in the name of this law that was condemned by the EU, repealed and has just been re-introduced. When dozens tested positive, the attack was swift and vindictive: photographs and the names of those who tested positive were posted online by the police. They were then charged with causing bodily harm and locked in jail. Some websites posted the photographs of the women and within days vigilante mobs assembled outside the homes of the women's families shouting abuse. 26 of the women who were arrested remain in jail. They insist that they did not know they were HIV positive but no one is listening and no one cares.

The list of people who are being targeted keeps growing:

The beating in police cells of four young anarchists who were suspected of robbing a bank in the North of Greece hit the headlines in February. Despite the fact that the photographs were digitally altered by the police, the suspects' injuries were clearly visible. When The Guardian published the photographs, Public Order Minister Mr Dendias threatened to sue the newspaper.

In December 2010, 29-year-old anarchist Kostas Sakkas was arrested in Athens and was held in prison without a trial. On 4 June 2013 he went on  hunger strike, demanding an end to his detention. According to Greek law, pre-trial detentions can extend to 18 months, or 30 in exceptional circumstances. On 4 June, having already reached his legal maximum time in pre-trial detention, it was extended by another six months by an Athens court of appeal. While clearly stating his own anarchist convictions, both Sakkas and the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire group have denied his active participation. But whether Sakkas was indeed a member or not, is no longer the issue. As is becoming altogether too common in these cases of a breach of legality, the government has not attempted to defend its actions, but has instead lashed out against Syriza, the Left opposition party,  for defending 'any sort of accused who are charged with anarchy and terrorism'. 

Sakkas was released on the 38th day of his hunger strike: a bail of 30,000 euros, a ban on meeting or communicating with his fellow defendants, confiscation of his passport and I.D. and compulsory residence at his parent's house were the terms of his release.

The irony of the whole situation should not escape us: here is a young anarchist who was making the simple demand that a law-breaking State should obey and uphold the law: he was making this demand by putting his life in danger.

Such stories of police violence, governmental injustice, intrusion into citizens' lives and a total rupture between state and society is not occurring in Greece alone: neo-liberalism has resulted in the rise of a corrupt, self-aggrandizing political class that does not care about anything but its own interests, resulting in austerity policies, impoverishment of large sections of society and the rise of a repressive state that will not tolerate any form of opposition or dialogue.  Unlike any other country in Europe however, the government in Greece is turning the clock back at such rapid pace that we are indeed nearing the state of the Weimar Republic in the 1930s.

For more on Xenios Zeus go to:


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