Athens, second ‘Halandri case’ trial: Letter of Athena Tsakalou to the court

On April 20th, in the special court-martial of Koridallos women’s prisons where one more trial session of the second ‘Halandri case’ took place, Michalis Nikolopoulos read his request for postponement of the trial and then another statement by Christos Tsakalos and Damiano Bolano (both comrades were absent from court due to their hunger strike). Later, the defense attorney Frangiskos Ragousis handed the judges a letter from Athena Tsakalou, the mother of Christos and Gerasimos Tsakalos. She herself was present in the courtroom but she refused to testify. The letter wasn’t read in court, and the presiding judge simply announced that ‘it will be added to the transcript.’ The complete letter is as follows:


‘Every act of rebellion expresses nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.’
[Albert Camus]

I am asking myself: why are parents of the anarchists–revolutionaries of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire being subpoenaed to trial? Why are they subpoenaing me? Are they doing it in order to ask me if I know something about the organization? To ask me questions about the personal lives of my sons, sketch out their ‘psychological profile,’ or get an opinion on their ‘family life’? Or to ask me if I agree with the actions of my children and, in general, those of the organization? To stand me up in front of this court, supported by that little book, and make me swear to that god you have placed in the service of Power? To make revolutionary anarchists feel uncomfortable while their parents are asked a bunch of awkward questions? Or is it so that you yourselves can rejoice at the thought that you have made us believe it is we who must give the answers and make an apologia?

I declare, once again, that in no instance am I going to respond positively to your invitation. And since, as demonstrated by everything that’s going on, an entire series of similar trials is set to begin, I tell you that it’s not worth the effort to send me more subpoenas because my position will continue to be the same. Under no circumstances am I going to attend this trial. I will not answer a single one of your questions. The action of my children and their comrades was and is clearly political, anarchist–revolutionary, and it is therefore unnecessary to investigate the parameters of their personal lives. The organization, membership to which they have admitted by claiming political responsibility, has formulated its positions with total clarity, precision and boldness. Anything I could say would be slight and insignificant. And since I would like to leave certain things as clear and potent as they already are, and because I don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of ruining everything with stupid and excessive questions, I am choosing the position of my absence.

Referring myself to this trial, I don’t want to allow a certain phrase—one that is continually repeated with great zeal and emphasis—to hang in the air as a potential display of temerity and honesty. I’m talking about the phrase: ‘We are trying the case by examining it in depth’; which means that, as you say, you are trying the case in accordance with nothing less than the clauses of your laws; which means that you will pass judgment based on evidence, and not on the circumstantially conclusive or according to the logic of collective responsibility. And if I am mentioning that phrase it’s not because I suddenly expect miracles, but because at a certain moment—and especially in cases dealing with people’s revolutionary action—words must take on importance and responsibility; despite the fact that, thus far, this judicial process has indicated nothing of the kind. Every objection based on common logic, like that of recognizing the Prisoners as political prisoners—exactly as defined by your Constitution and in exactly the same way it’s also mentioned in the charges—, was rejected out of hand, without any logic. The concept of assuming political responsibility has been mistaken for criminal responsibility, and that’s obviously not due to ignorance or chance. Therefore, I underscore that phrase and at the end of the trial we will be able to see whether you are indeed serious about what you are saying.

It’s true that, since the beginning of the prosecution of the contemporary anarchist revolutionaries, I have discovered and paid particular attention to a painting: Bruegel’s painting entitled ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.’ The flight of Icarus has to do with the human being’s desire to escape the land’s grip, to fly; to prevail also in the air, to also walk on air…

It is about pride, arrogance, disobedience and the desire to show that the human being is capable of everything. And now the painter places in the prevailing foreground the farmer—dedicated to the plowing, to the soil, nothing else matters to him—and in the background the shepherd —who is a bit more curious, but also looking in the wrong direction. Even further in the background is the impressive boat continuing its journey, and there in the corner is the drowned Icarus’ poor little foot. I have never before seen such a deposition of the Icarian project. And probably that’s no coincidence—I don’t know what the painter’s philosophy was—, perhaps the meaning is that people who are contemporaries with a bold experiment are too fixed in their own habits, too afraid of change, not daring to recognize or try something new.

Looking at the painting, I don’t accept this deposition. Now that, in this country, people stand trial for still daring to believe that if anything in this life is worth doing it is the Icarian projects—no matter how much pain they may hold, no matter how much incarceration or how many convictions may be imposed on them—I want to maintain the hope and belief that at some point people, the contemporaries with these rebellions, will place in the foreground and recognize the necessity of the flight.

Athena Tsakalou

PS. And if I am sending this note it is because the court’s insistence on my appearance is peculiar, and above all because I do not allow myself silence. Silence only corresponds to the deceased, and in our times it is being applied during these trials by those who are completely subjugated to the commands of Power.

And if you truly want to understand whom you are trying, go on read their discourse, look at their stance. Christos Tsakalos, Gerasimos Tsakalos and Panagiotis Argirou are on the 12th day of hunger strike, and they have declared: ‘The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction’ [William Blake] … ‘When one does not die for the other, then we are already dead’ [Tasos Livaditis]… On April 17th Giorgos Polidoros, Damiano Bolano, Haris Hadjimihelakis began hunger strike in support of their comrades, while the rest of the imprisoned members cell of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire will follow suit at determined dates.

In our non-negotiable decision to turn our daily life into revolution through direct action and the anarchist urban guerrilla warfare, we began a course with a starting point but with no final stop.’