Kostas Sakkas’s health is deteriorating rapidly. As of today, he is 32 days into a hunger strike, protesting his unlawful pre-trial detention by the Greek authorities, which now extends to 31 months. On June 17th, Sakkas was moved from prison to a general hospital, where doctors monitor his condition closely. Meanwhile, New Democracy, the leading party in Greece’s government coalition, responded to mounting criticism by attacking the main opposition party, SYRIZA, and saying that the opposition should “stop defending everyone accused of anarchy and terrorism”.
According to a medical report by Olga Kosmopoulou, MD at Nikaia General State Hospital, Kostas Sakkas’s life is in imminent danger. She points out that the hunger striker has already lost a lot of body mass, and his heart or other vital organs could fail at any moment.
Nevertheless, Public Prosecutor Ioannis Moraitakis proposed today that the detainee’s petition for release be rejected. The Judicial Council is scheduled to discuss the matter within the next few days.
Sakkas went on hunger strike on June 4th, the day on which the extension of his pre-trial detention was supposed to have ended.
Greek law allows for a person accused of a crime to be detained before trial for a period of up to 18 months. In exceptional cases, and provided certain legal conditions are met, this period may be extended to 30 months. In 1996, a law was passed (2408/1996), which provides that a single case against any person may not be broken up into several partial sets of charges, resulting in successive pre-trial detention terms, which would exceed the legal 18 month limit. This law was a result of several convictions Greece suffered in the European Court of Human Rights.
A self-confessed anarchist, Kostas Sakkas was arrested on December 4th 2010, in Athens. He was charged with gun possession and participation in an unknown terrorist organization, and his detention was ordered. During his detention, the additional charge of participating in the organization known as the “Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire” was brought against him. Two months before his detention expired, he was charged once again for participation in the same organization, albeit for different incidents. He went on hunger strike on June 4th, the day on which the extension of his pre-trial detention was supposed to have ended.
It should be noted that Kostas Sakkas not only has not tried to make a secret of his political beliefs, but has presented himself as a staunch believer in anarchism. At the same time, he has denied participation in the “Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire”. Members of the organization have also made public addresses maintaining that Sakkas was never among their ranks.
“Kostas Sakkas will be in prison for three years without trial,” his lawyer says.
“The maximum pre-trial period was exhausted before the trial began,” Marina Daliani, one of Sakkas’s lawyers, repeatedly told the Press. “Two months before the 18-month period was over, new charges were brought against him, and it was again ordered that he should remain in detention. The period of his second pre-trial detention period, which according to the Penal Code cannot exceed 12 months, has also been exhausted, while his trial for the first set of charges is not concluded, and his trial for the second set, for which he is now detained, has not even begun. The Judicial Council has ordered an extension of pre-trial detention for an additional six months, which is against the law. Kostas Sakkas will be in prison for three years without trial.”
Despite widespread reaction to this perversion of justice, neither the courts nor the Greek government appear to have any qualms about upholding Sakkas’s illegal detention. Alongside human rights groups and numerous political organizations, the main opposition party, SYRIZA, has also voiced strong protests against this latest onslaught on democratic liberties in crisis-laden Greece, pointing out, among other things, that Sakkas’s continued detention violates not only national law but also the European Human Rights Treaty. New Democracy, the leading party in Greece’s government coalition, replied to this criticism in a statement, saying that SYRIZA “should, for once, respect institutions and stop defending everyone accused of anarchy and terrorism”.
The fact remains that Kostas Sakkas has not been convicted of anything at all, neither terrorism, nor “anarchy” – which is mercifully not a crime in Greece, whether the Greek government knows it or not.