ATHENS — Supporters of 21 hunger strikers in Greek prisons said they have refused to give up their month-long protest against anti-terrorism laws, despite concessions promised by the country’s new left-wing government.
The hunger strike, led by inmates convicted of participation in armed anarchist and far-left groups, started on March 2 and has triggered dozens of protests, including the occupation of the governing SYRIZA party headquarters and a pro-SYRIZA Athens radio station.
“Several of the hunger strikers have been moved from prison to the hospital and are in very serious condition,” said Olga Kosmopoulou, a doctor from the support group Initiative for Prison Rights.
“They are are playing Russian roulette with their lives.”
The inmates are demanding the closure of new so-called Type C maximum security prisons, and changes to anti-terrorism laws which they argue violate fair-trial rights.
Anti-terrorism laws have steadily become more severe over a decades-long struggle against domestic groups that carried out a range of violent activities from minor arson attacks to deadly bombings and assassinations.
Anni Paparoussou, a lawyer with the prison support group, said many of Greece’s more recent terrorism cases are based on DNA evidence that she argued is presented without any independent oversight.
“The demands being made in this protest are not revolutionary,” she said. “They are well grounded legally.”
The country’s two-month old government has agreed to consider their demands, including the closure of the new prisons — but has been caught in an unwelcome law-and-order debate as it grapples with the country’s shaky public finances.
On April 1, anarchist protesters broke into a heavily-policed perimeter around Parliament.
“Public order is under daily threat … they can’t even protect Parliament,” said Antonis Samaras, the nation’s former conservative prime minister.