It’s not a melodrama for the sake of it. It is a real Greek story in times of real Greek austerity, of collapsed lives, of damaged health and broken dreams. A 65-year-old cancer-patient was dragged to two police stations and was fined with 10,000 euro for selling on the street personal items without a license.
The woman was arrested by policemen at one of the open markets in Thessaloniki. Her private ‘wealth’ set for sale was a candlestick, a glass jug and a serving tray. These private items were seized and destroyed according to the protocol as prescribed by the law.
The story of the woman could have been told by Charles Dickens or Victor Hugo or by any other social critics of authors of the 19th century. But it’s not. It is a contemporary story in modern Greece of the IMF- and Creditors’ century.
The woman had undergone mastectomy, needs to pay for the follow up lab tests. But she cannot afford the payments. Together with her husband she lives on a 360-euro farmers’ pension. Yes, she has access to public health care, it’s just that the “Theageneio public hospital does not do all the tests,” as she says, so she has to go privately. And for this she need money.
For four years, she has been “selling various items from our private household to raise the money to pay for the lab tests. I sell embroidery, knitwear, everything I can make, there is no job I can do anyway,” the woman told daily Efimerida Twn Syntaktwn adding “They knew me there [at the open market], nobody bothered me.”
Then she described her experience with the law enforcement units and the justice just three days before Christmas:
“The policemen came on 22 [December], at noon, they probably thought I was selling cigarettes. ‘I am sick, kids,’ I told them, they were polite they took me to a police station. I stayed there until 8 in the evening. They were looking at me, were not saying anything, what should they say, it’s the Law… Then I was taken to another police station, a bigger one, [the General Police Directorate], they were looking at me again, they were polite, and meanwhile it was midnight, or past midnight, it was dark outside, black, nothing around, I was scared, I tell them ‘how can I go home now, kids*?’
I do not know if they were ashamed but in the end they acted out a sense of honor [filotimo], they put me in a police car and drove me right to my door. ‘Merry Christmas’ the policeman told me and I told him ‘same to you, my child, thank you for bringing me home, Merry Christmas.”
And then? “I laughed. When you lose everything, you laugh. Only my husband is concerned, he is afraid that with the fine they will seize his pension from OGA, 380 euros per month.”
Meanwhile, as the case became known and many volunteers got aware of the situation, a lawyer offered to defend the case pro bono.
“Such phenomena do not honor the Greek state,” lawyer and head of the Radical Unifying Movement of Kalamaria suburb of Thessaloniki, Manolis Lamtzidis told the daily.
Lamtzidis found out that the “elements of crime were destroyed by the Protocol as the authorities found out that the woman had no retailer license, documents etc and therefore the fine of 10,000 euro.
“Next to all other formal legal moves, I will also write a letter to the minister in charge, asking that there should always be an evaluation of its case,” Lamtzidis said adding “What should be done now? The Tax Office should confiscate the house of people who have an annual income of 4,000 euros?”
For sure the granny would be better off if she would sell her private glass ware or knitted creations on ebay or on etsy, right?
Sadly, the incident and the fine are not unique. On the same day and on the same market, another man was fined for selling his own books and records. The man at his 70’s was living on a pension of 175 euro per month.
The witch-hunting has increased against the vulnerable groups of the society, the poor of this country, has dramatically increased.
Beginning of December the authorities in Trikala fined with 5,000 euro a granny, 79, who was selling without license veggies worth no more than 35 euros. In Karditsa, they arrested a 92-year-old for selling roasted chest-nuts without issuing receipts. And in Thessaloniki again, famous is the case of another chest-nut seller, 70, who was chased by a whole riot police squad for selling nuts without license. He had lost his license due to his debts and he was selling without license in order to raise money to pay his debts or just to have money to come through the month.
* kids – Παιδιά! – is a common expression in Greece (where men never grow up) to address or describe young men …well… in some cases up to 40 years old or something.
PS Chasing the poor for tax evasion has slowly reached alarming dimensions. Only the kids of the government are probably not aware of this.
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How can you greeks allow this to happen? How spineless have greeks become.
The problem is with the Greek judiciary. They have always been badly educated in law, prejudiced, and corrupted by both politics and money. The legal system is the biggest problem Greece has — much more serious than the economy. Without reform, the crooks and morons of judges will make sure that Greece can never recover from its current malaise.
The police could have looked the other way or give the person a warning and send her home. They know what people go through to get by. Arresting and prosecuting people who are desperate is nothing less than state terror.
The Greek police look the other way when they receive a fakelaki (bribe in a small envelope). They know no other reason to look the other way: they are not British police.