Nikos Romanos, anarchist prisoner in Greece, was on hunger strike from the 10th of November until the 10th of December 2014. The judicial mechanisms refused his furlough request to attend university classes. In response to this, multiform actions of solidarity took place inside and outside the prisons of Greek democracy and internationally.
Most of all, it was the urgency of the situation that sparked street clashes and inspired instances of rebellion across the territory controlled by the Greek State. At the same time, comrades were eager to exchange ideas and desires over the previous month, and a great many diverse actions were able to see the light of day on the occasion of this prisoner hunger strike: daily assemblies, banner actions, direct actions, such as numerous arsons and attacks with homemade explosives (mainly against bank ATMs), hit-and-run attacks against police, street riots and large-scale clashes with the forces of order, building blockades, acts of sabotage (with the use of glue, paint, etc.), physical assaults against persons of Power, spontaneous protests against public appearance of politicians, symbolic occupation of radio and tv stations, a wave of state/corporate building occupations, counter-info gatherings, and large demonstrations. The creativity and conflictuality of various different anarchist individualities and groups may not be strong and decisive enough to keep the fight equally intense at the everyday level, but there’s always a chance that new projects will emerge from the latest encounter of comrades in occupied buildings, street actions, and so forth. However, only if people in solidarity with Nikos Romanos, and anarchists in particular, are willing to reflect on the specifics of what occurred during the last couple of days of his strike, they may find themselves prepared to practice a much-needed prisoner solidarity in the face of the new maximum security facility in Domokos, as well as the overall worsening of prison conditions.
Seeing that his initial request was repeatedly and vengefully denied, our comrade was blackmailed to accept electronic tagging as an option for getting educational furloughs eventually, “a last resort” that became more pressing as his health was quickly deteriorating. In fact, he chose to stop his hunger strike only after the Greek parliament voted almost unanimously (with the exception of two MPs of the main ruling party according to the official record, while MPs of the Nazi party were apparently quasi-present at the vote) in favor of an amendment proposed by the justice minister. This amendment refers to prisoners – convicts (sentenced in court) and indictees (awaiting trial) – that have the right to study at a higher education institution available in the same region as the state facility where they are incarcerated, but have not been granted educational leave from prison to regularly attend their classes. It specifies that any such prisoner must successfully attend 1/3 of classes and laboratory activities in one semester of an academic year by completing distant learning courses, and only then be permitted to make use of educational release days by wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet to physically attend classes. The justice minister included the provision of electronic tagging at the last minute, making sure to add that the competent disciplinary boards (prison councils) may still deny the request of an inmate for educational leave should they present a “special justification” for issuing a negative decision (even after the inmate has completed the required distance learning courses inside prison walls, and even if s/he accepts to be monitored by bracelet outside the walls, we presume). This legislative amendment applies in all cases of sentenced and awaiting-trial prisoners who are deprived of student furloughs (so, not just in the case of Nikos Romanos). On this occasion, almost all political parties had an electioneering benefit from promoting further repressive measures against prisoners while not missing their chance to show off a democratic and humanitarian profile.
Nikos has quit his strike, after 31 days, but he’s still asphyxiating for a few breaths of freedom. Given the outcome, knowing that his claim has not yet been vindicated, we demand what should be granted to him right away: educational leave from prison. Contrary to a widespread feeling of “victory”, we feel that nothing has been won apart from the valuable life of our comrade and the realization that we should respond to every blackmailing of statist lackeys, not sometime in the distant future but now, by intensifying all forms of fight against the prison-society. We firmly stand by the side of prisoners in struggle, and against the enforcement of the use of teleconferencing and electronic tagging as yet another method of isolating captives of the State/Capital. Now, more than ever before, prisoner solidarity must go on the offensive by any means necessary.