Inmate Vassilis Dimakis started his third hunger and thirst strike on Saturday, as the state deprives him of the right to education although this is secured by the law. Under a pretext of 14-quarantine because of the pandemic, the inmate in Korydallos Prison in Athens has no access to his laptop and internet in order to attend university classes.
Dimakis took part in a prison protest demanding health protocols and antiseptics amid the pandemic. Is this the reason the state adopted an extra punitive measure, and restricted the law granting inmates rights to education in the name of one prisoner?
Dimakis is a third year undergraduate student at the Department of Political Sciences and Public Governance of the School of Economic and Political Sciences of the National Kapodistrian University of Athens.
Having first been in prison in his teenager years, he managed to finish high school in prison and was granted a scholarship due to exceptional educational performances.
For everybody knowing the Greek prison system and its grave shortages in punitive measures, one would say that Dimakis found all by himself the “right way” to be able to return back to the society one day.
Instead of awarding him, the state seems to punish him for that.
“Alert” – “A prisoner attempts to study” by caricaturist Anastasiou
After the prisoners’ mobilization for better health protection measures against the coronavirus in mid-April, Dimakis was removed from Korydallos and transported to the prison of Grevena in northern Greece, some 400 km away from Athens.
He was placed in 14-day quarantine as prescribed by the law. With no access to internet to attend the university classes, he was at risk of losing his scholarship.
He started a hunger strike and a few days later a thirst strike demanding to be returned to the prison in Athens.
Following mounting public pressure in support to his protest, the Council of the Grevena Prison agreed on April 30 that Dimakis would be transported back to the Korydallos.
But the transfer did not take place. Dimakis started again a hunger strike and for one more time, public pressure forced the Ministry for Citizen’s Protection issued a press release assuring that he would return to his cell in Athens prison.
Dimakis ended his hunger and thirst strike, when he was transferred to Athens. However, in Korydallos prison he was placed again in 14-day isolation quarantine in a special ward for female prisoners convicted for terrorism crimes.
On May 9, Dimakis started a hunger strike again against this punitive measure, demanding to return to his cell and continue his studies.
However, this did not happen also after the quarantine period ended.
He remains in the basement of the Female Prisoners ward.
He started a new hunger and thirst strike on Saturday, May 23.
The General Secretary for Anti-Crimes Policy at the Citizen’s Protection Ministry, who is in charge for signing for Dimakis’ transfer to his cell, instead of seriously taking up the case, has been engaged in confrontation with her political opponents on social media, accusing them of “fanaticism” and “ideological obsessions.”
Το να σου κουνάνε το δάχτυλο για δήθεν άσκηση πολιτικής στην περίπτωση Δημάκη με εμμονές και φανατισμό, άνθρωποι που έκαναν σημαία την ιδεοληψία, είναι τουλάχιστον αστείο. Μόνη απάντηση, η νομιμότητα. Γιατί στις δικές μας βάρδιες… δεν θέλουμε "στραβές".@RenaDourou
— Sofia Nikolaou (@SofiaNikolaou_) May 24, 2020
Vassilis Dimakis was first incarcerated in his teen years, as a result of criminal offenses; after his first release he displayed recidivism and had to face further prison time.
In the fourth decade of his life, he is still incarcerated for his prior offenses, having passed a good part of his adult life as a prisoner.
“At some point he made a conscious choice: to study. This proved revelatory a choice for him that led to a personal transformative experience, as it induced self-reflection and motivated him to face and transcend his own past self,” notes a group of Solidarity with Vassilis Dimakis.
Since then, prisoner Dimakis enrolled in prison school, managed to graduate high school with excellent marks, and, having achieved exceptional grades in the relevant national exams, he entered higher education, enrolling in the Political Sciences and Public Governance Department of the School of Economic and Political Sciences of the University of Athens.
He went thought a hunger and thirst strike in 2018 demanding to be granted the right to attend the classes in person.
His efforts earned him a scholarship by the Greek State Scholarships Foundation (IKY) and his position among the academic community of his school.
During the COVID-19 induced lockdown, Dimakis was a member of the three-member prisoners’ committee that met with Ministry of Justice officials to discuss measures to address the possible effects of the pandemic on prison populations.
It ought to be noted that addressing overcrowding in Greek penitentiary facilities has been a constant demand of multiple organizations and institutions, including the Athens’ Bar Association.
There was no violent act recorded as part of the prisoners’ 14 April mobilization; there has not even been any disciplinary charge brought against any of the participants.
In support of his case, and his struggle to ensure his right to education, there has been an influx of messages and an array of public statements issued by academics, professors and students, and institutional actors alike such as humans rights organizations.
Member of European Parliament Kostas Arvanitis (SYRIZA) has submitted a relevant question about Dimakis “revenge transfer” to the European Commission.
KINAL demands the resignation of the General Secretary. The psychological violence against Dimakis is inhumane, depriving of his right to education is against the human rights,” KINLA says in a statement.
«Η ψυχολογική βία που ασκείται στον κρατούμενο Βασίλη Δημάκη είναι απάνθρωπη. Η στέρηση του δικαιώματός του στην εκπαίδευση είναι ενάντια στο ανθρωπιστικό δίκαιο».
— Κίνημα Αλλαγής (@kinimallagis) May 25, 2020
A protest in solidarity with Vassilis Dimakis is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. later today, Monday, outside the Ministry for Citizen’s Protection.