This is an excellent example of political and state hypocrisy: A prison convict for bank robbery was first honored by the President of the Hellenic Republic for passing the university exams while in prison. Nikos Romanos, 21, was even awarded with 500 euro for his achievement, even though he refused not only to attend a meeting with the President but also take the award.
Nikos Romanos wanted to attend university classes and make use of his educational furloughs from prison as he is entitled to do so since September 2014.
But despite the award fanfare and “bravos!”, the state has deprived him from his to education, apparently for the simple reason that Nikos Romanos is a declared “anarchist”.
Claiming his right for education, he went on hunger strike on November 10th and on November 28th he was transferred to an Athens hospital under strong police custody. According to his lawyer and a family doctor who was allowed to visit him Romanos’ health condition is critical and deteriorating.
Romanos’ private doctor Lina Vergopoulou revealed over the weekend that there is an order by the prison prosecutor to”forced feeding” of Romanos, despite the fact that practice in prisons has been been prohibited since 1975 by the Declaration of Tokyo of the World Medical Association, provided that the prisoner is “capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment” and is being considered as “torture“.
“I would also like to stress that with the unprecedented court order of 10/11/14, the Greek justice disclaims its responsibilities arising from the refusal of educational furloughs for Nikos Romanos, and it pass on the responsibility for the fate of the hunger striker to physicians, pointing out even implicitly, the practice of forced feeding or forced medication against his will,” Vergopoulou said among others in a statement she issued. (imerisia,gr)
The news of “forced feeding” order triggered an outrage among the society and even mainstream and conservative media and websites suddenly took the side of Romanos demanding that he should be allowed to study at the Athens Technical College and blamed the state and the government for moving their responsibilities to medical personnel.
So far the prosecutor’s order has not been executed and Nikos Romanos remains adamant in refusing to take anything else except water.
Ministers throw the ball to each other
Education Minister Andreas Loverdos declared on Sunday that he was in favor of prisoners being allowed to study and threw the decision ball to Minister of Public Order saying that he had to decide accordingly based on security criteria. “Since Romanos was allowed to enter the exams, he should be also allowed to study,” Loverdos said.
Also the Justice Ministry said it had nothing to do with the issue and pushed the ball to Loverdos saying that “the Education Ministry was in charge of this issue.”
Media report that in fact it it the Prison Council in charge of solving the issue. the Justice Ministry proposed that Romanos attends the university classes via teleconference.
Who is Nikos Romanos
Last October, Nikos Romanos and three other young men were sentenced to 15 to 16 years imprisonment for taking part in an armed bank robbery in Velvento in February 2013. Judges dropped all charges alleging that the six were members of urban guerrilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire.
Michailidis, Romanos during their arrest in February 2013
The arrest of the four triggered an outrage in Greece, when police released photo-shopped pictures of the arrestees. Upon strong reactions and the complaints of the families of the four, Greek police released the original and shocking pictures of the six right after their arrest clearly showing that they had been badly beaten.
At that time police had claimed that the four had resisted the arrest and therefore the injuries. The four were suspected of being terrorists robbing a bank in order to finance their activities.
Nikos Romanos was a close friend of Alexis Grigoropoulos, the 15-year-old shot dead by a policeman on December 6, 2008. He was with Grigoropoulos when he was murdered in a street of Exarchia district of Athens. Grigoropoulos’ murder sparked days of rioting in Athens.
After his arrest in February 2013, Romanos had declared that he was an anarchist.
He is the son of an upper class Athenian family.
So far the prosecutor’s order has not been executed and Nikos Romanos remains adamant in refusing to take anything else except water, on the 20th day of his hunger strike.
Video taken on November 29/2014 showing Nikos Romanos with raised fist at the window of Gennimatas Hopsital in Athens, as solidarity groups gathered outside chant slogansembedded by Embedded Video
Also convicted of the bank robbery in Vevlento, prisoner Yiannis Michailidis went on hunger strike on November 17th in solidarity with Romanos. Michailidis was transferred to a hospital in Piraeus due to bradycardia problems.
According to state NERIT TV, the families of the two speak of “state revenge.”
Political parties like SYRIZA, Democratic Left, KKE but also coalition government partner PASOK issued statements demanding educational furloughs for Romanos.
Several artists demand the same.
Several unions of hospital and Technical College personnel have expressed solidarity with Romanos and demand that he is allowed to study.
Some Greeks are concerned about a possible fatal impact for Romanos due to the ministries delays and the potential consequences like sparking riots, especially as the anniversary of Grigoropoulos’ killing nears.