Hunger strike ends as Greek government caves

After 18 days 7,000 prisoners in greece stop their hunger strike after the ministry of justice concedes to a series of their demands, promising to release half the country's prison population by April 2009.

Submitted by taxikipali on November 20, 2008

On Thursday the 20th of November more than 7,000 hunger strikers in greek prisons demanding a comprehensive 45-point program of prison reform have decided to stop their hunger strike, already on its 18th day, after the Ministry of Justice responded to their struggle and to the widening solidarity movement which in the last weeks has held several mass protest marches in the greek cities by declaring that by next April the number of prisoners in greek jails will be reduced to 6.815 from the present 12.315, thus effectively releasing half of the country's prison population.

The Ministry's declaration in detail states that:

1) All persons convicted to a sentence up to five years for any offense including drug related crimes can tranform their sentence into a monetary penalty. This will not be allowed in the case the jury decides that the payment is not enough to deter the convict from commiting punishable acts in the future.

2) The minimum sum for tranforming one day of prison sentence to monetary penanlty is reduced from 10 euros to 3, with the provision of being reduced to 1 euro by decision of the jury.

3) All people who have served 1/5 of their prison sentence for 2 year sentences and 1/3 for sentences longer than 2 years are to be released, with no exceptions.

4) The minimum limit of served sentence is reduced to 3/5 for conditional release and for convicts for drug related crimes. Those condemned under conditions of law Ν. 3459/2006 (articles 23 και 23Α) are excepmpted.

5) The maximum limit of pre-trial impironment is reduced from 18 to 12 months, with the excemption of crimes puniched by liife or 20year sentence.

6) The annual time of days-off prison is increased by one day. Tougher conditions for days-off are limited for those convicted for drug related crimes under Ν. 3459/2006.

7) Disciplinary penalties are to be integrated.

8) Integration after 4 years into national law of the European Council decision of drug trafficking (2004/757).

9) Expansion of implementation of conditional release of convicts suffering from AIDS, kidney failure, persistent TB, and tetraplegics.

What the Ministry failed to answer with regard to the prisoners' demands include:

1) Monetary exchange of prison sentences longer than 5 years, especially for 6.700 prisoners presently convicted for non-criminal offenses.

2) Abolition of juvenile prisons

3) Abolition of accumulative disciplinary penalties

4) Abolition of 18 months pre-trial imprisonment for a large number of offenses.

5) Satisfactory expansion of days off, despite the fact that the application of present liberties has been tested as succesfull during the last 18 years.

6) Immediate improvement of relocation conditions of convicts

7) Holding a meeting between the minister of justice and the prisoners' committee

Thus in a press release, the Prisoners' Commitee announced that:

"The amendment submitted to the Parliament by the Ministry of Justice tackles but a few of our demands. The minister ought to materialize his promises for the immediate release of the suggested number of prisoners announced, and at the same time implement concrete measures regarding the totality of our demands. We the prisoners treat this amendment as a first step, a result of our struggle and of the solidarity shown by society. Yet it fails to covers us, it fails to solve our problems. With our struggle, we have first of all fought for our dignity. And this dignity we cannot offer as a present to no minister, to no screw. We shall tolerate no arbitrary acts, no vengeful relocation, no terrorizing disciplinary act. We are standing and we shall stay standing. We demand form the Parliament to move towards a complete abolition of the limit of 4/5 of served sentence, the abolition of accumulated time for disciplinary penalties, and the expansion of beneficial arrangements regarding days-off, and conditional releases for all categories of prisoners. Moreover, we demand the immediate legislation on the presently vague promises of the minister of justice regarding the improvement of prison conditions (abolition of juvenile prisons, foundation of therapeutic centers for drug dependents, implementation of social labour in exchange for prison sentence, upgrading of hospital care of prisoners, incorporation of european legislation favorable to the prisoners in the greek law etc.). Finally, we offer our thanks to the solidarity movement, to every component, party, medium, and militant who stood by us with all and any means of his or her choice, and we declare that our struggle against these human refuse dumps and for the victory of all our demands continues".
Prisoners' Committee 20/11/08.