After 25 days of hunger strike, Kostantinos Sakkas’s case threatens to turn into serious trouble for the Greek judicial system. Sakkas has been held in prison for 30 months without trial or sentence, while his confinement has been prolonged through the legal trick of ‘splitting up’ the cases. It seems that Greece’s next conviction by the European court is on its way!
By Anta Psarra
Yesterday at noon a press conference was held about the illegal extension of the 30-month imprisonment of hunger striker Kostas Sakkas. While a new conviction of Greece by the European Court is a given, Minister Mr. Athanasiou instantly rushed to legitimate this judicial aberration at his very first day at the Ministry of Justice.
Attorneys and the doctor monitoring the developments in the health of the prosecuted gave explicit legal – and not only legal – answers concerning the illegality of the prolongation of his pre-trial detention. At the same time, political parties Nea Dimokratia and SYRIZA continue to exchange fire in their public announcements on the issue, with Nea Dimokratia stating that “That’s what we should do with terrorism and anarchy”, while the MP of SYRIZA, Nikos Voutsis, made clear that SYRIZA stands by every prosecuted person whose human rights are being blatantly violated.
It is inhuman
Doctor Olga Kosmopoulou spoke about her first acquaintance with the prisoner one year ago, during his first hunger strike, and said that she tried to prevent him from initiating a second and more extreme deterioration of his health. “I respect his decision and I consider it a bit sick to report any medical details here. His situation is pretty severe and it is inhuman for the authorities to wait to see a man’s physical limits. We forget that any hunger striker is at risk from day 10 of the hunger strike and that his future health is already impacted in a permanent way. That is something that should worry us all. This particular individual strikes not just for a few days of freedom, but also for the democratic rights of all of us”, the doctor emphasized.
The attorney of the imprisoned, Marina Daliani, referred to the judicial deviation from legality which concerns the whole society. “This case was built on arbitrary matters which now in turn lead us to complete illegality. Before a trial date was set during his initial prosecution, and while his term of legal custody was coming to its end, a new prosecution was put in action, similar to the previous one. The paperwork for this trial, including interrogations and information brought in by the public prosecutor and the police, does not mention Sakkas’ name even once. Our constitution says that the 18-month period of custody for prosecuted persons can only be extended in exceptional cases, when felonies surface of which the court was not aware. However, no such actions of the defendant of which the court was not aware exist. Let us not speak about the complete lack of evidence of guilt. Anyway, let’s accept that the law was not adhered to till that point. However, when the legal procedure begins, the law does not allow any exceptions that can exceed one year. The Judicial Council’s decision to further extend the defendant’s custody is completely arbitrary and unjustifiable.”
M. Daliani stated that in the judicial history of Greece only one other case was treated similarly, with a person prosecuted for economic crimes who then took his case to the European Court. Greece back then was convicted for that reason, and subsequently new legislation was passed in order to prevent judicial institutions from pursuing consecutive extensions for imprisoned defendants. For the last 17 years, this legislation has been implemented uninterruptedly. Everyone knows that in Sakkas’ case Greece will again be convicted. Our objection to the Council’s decision was rejected by the majority of judges, with the exception of one judge who tried to save the honour of the Greek judicial system. “Now, we have submitted a new application for release, putting the time he still has to live at stake. However, for the Greek judicial system is already too late.”
Kleio Papantoleon, from Greek Union for Human Rights, then took over to state: “I am afraid that several judges today try to humiliate the country. Through their neglect to concern themselves with a case of absolute priority for over three years now, Greece risks being fined by the European Court. The reparations for illegal actions of this kind approach 1 million euros for the state. So the judges first of all need to hurry for the sake of the state. A just state can not behave irresponsibly towards its commitments, and especially in matters of human rights. That is why this law was passed back then, even if this means that a guilty person may be left out of prison. This is a choice, prescribed by the constitution. After 30 months of custody, no one should be held in custody for even one more hour, no person and for no reason.”
“The laws are being stretched”
Michalis Kalogirou, another attorney, observed that during the last years the Greek judicial system has allowed itself similar illegal practices. “With interventions by the executive powers, as in yesterday’s public announcement by Nea Dimokratia, we see the laws being stretched as well as the constitution.”
Finally, MP Vasiliki Katrivanou referred to a question SYRIZA asked ex-Minister of Justice Antonis Roupakiotis in the parliament. The answer the party received was that the ex-Minister can not intervene in the judicial decision, though he declared his interest in the issue.
Translated from ‘Efimerida ton Syntakton’ newspaper, 28/06/2013. Available online at: http://www.efsyn.gr/?p=65126