Young and innocent. Last political prisoner of the Greek Intifada on 37th day of hunger strike

Greece, August 16, 2009, (Pal Telegraph) - Last December Greece experienced its own teenager Intifada. On December 6th 2008 a policeman, in cold blood, shot dead a 15 year old child, Alexis Grigoropoulos. Almost immediately, spontaneous protests and riots were spread across the country. This time it wasn't only the violent sectors of the Greek anarchist movement, but much broader sectors of Greek society, and mostly the vast majority of the teenagers that were expressing their wrath towards the police, the government, the institutions, whatever they feel is oppressing them. The generation that is supposed to be foolish, selfish, hypnotized by the TV and playstations, has proven to have ideals, sentiments of solidarity, courage to struggle. The Greek Intifada lasted almost a month, and if there weren't the Christmas Holidays for sure it would have been longer.
The Greek government of the right-wing party "New Democracy" responded in its usual (and not very …democratic) way: cruel repression. In fact Greek Police used all its tear gas grenades and was later obliged to by more from Israel. Hundreds of people were detained and tortured, among them a lot of foreign immigrants and refugees and at least one Palestinian. (As a Gazan friend pointed out: "Why Palestinians have to be guilty for everything?"). Obviously the foreigners were an "easy target" for the policemen and this has proven to be the first part of an ongoing racist Police pogrom against immigrants that is rocking the country since then. Even Amnesty International has accused the Greek authorities and police of excessive use of force and firearms, torture or other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and denial of prompt access to lawyers. "Time and again police officers in Greece have been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators or denying them their rights when in detention," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International. "The police response to the recent unrest is the culmination of an entrenched pattern of serious human rights violations by law enforcement officials."
A photojournalist, Kostas Tsironis, that captured on photo (see above) policemen threatening to shoot protesters, instead of being awarded, he was fired from his right-wing newspaper…
Dozens of the arrested people were provisionally imprisoned (among them the Palestinian one and a 31 old Greek, Thodoris Iliopoulos). The following months everybody were released waiting for their trials outside of prison, except Iliopoulos. He was arrested on the 18th of December. He was walking in one of the most central streets of Athens, when he and his friends were attacked by the police. "Five squadrons of Policemen surrounded 10 people" he says. He tried to escaped but they captured him and started to kick him in the head.
According to the investigator, he was outside the Law School throwing rocks and Cocktail Molotov bombs to the policemen. Thodoris Iliopoulos rejected these accusations since the beginning. When everybody else was asking to speak in front of an investigator, he wasn't afraid to testify to the policemen, declaring his innocence. There is no evidence at all apart from the testimonies of 2 special force policemen. And this testimonies are contradicting the accusations. According to the decision (25/6/2009) of the Jurists to extend his provisional imprisonment for another six months, "he was covering his head" while he was attacking the policemen. But no mask or other item to cover his head was found with him when he was arrested. And the most important: his imprisonment was based on the testimonies of 2 policemen who claim to have recognized him exactly because he wasn't covering his face!
Furthermore, according to Iliopoulos, when the investigator asked the 2 policemen if they would recognize him walking in the street, and the policemen said "yes", at that point, instead of asking them to point out and recognize who the defendant was, she, the investigator, pointed him out! After that, it wasn't very difficult for the policemen to recognize him…
On the other hand, testimonies of citizens proving that Iliopoulos is innocent, have been completely ignored. There is also a revealing live radio report from a major radio station (SKAI Radio) and its journalist Dimitris Manis on the moment of the arrest of Iliopoulos. According to that live report, the Police attacked and arrested people that were just watching the incidents and weren't participating in the riots. When the crowd opposed these arbitrary arrests, it was dispersed with tear gas which was targeting especially the journalists in order to prevent them from witnessing the arbitrary arrests.
After almost 7 months in jail, and after the decision of the Jurists to extend his provisional imprisonment (which is used more as an Administrative detention, like in the Occupied Palestinian Territories) Iliopoulos didn't have any other means to struggle for his freedom, but his own body. He begun a hunger strike on the 10th of July.
According to the medical report of the 10th of August, after one month of hunger strike, Iliopoulos (who was of only 60 kg of weight when he begun the hunger strike), he had lost the 18% of his weight and has problems in several parts of his body (cardiovascular, muscular, central nervous system, electrolyte disorders) that pose an imminent risk for his life.
Only after this report and after 34 days of hunger strike, Iliopoulos was transferred to the Prison Hospital. But that's not enough. He must be transferred to a regular hospital immediately. The fact that the Greek authorities are keeping Iliopoulos in prison and are refusing to transfer him to a hospital, reminds the numerous cases of medical negligence that a lot of Palestinian prisoners are suffering.
Whoever has met Thodoris Iliopoulos knows that he is a very delicate man, low profile, very polite, almost poetic. So why the authorities have chosen him as the scapegoat? First of all, Iliopoulos he didn't remain silent while he was in prison. He denounced not only his unfair imprisonment but also he declared that he was in solidarity with the teenagers' uprising. Furthermore his ideological background: although he doesn't want to put labels to himself, such as "anarchist" he says openly that he has read and is influenced by anarchist ideas. Finally his age: young enough to be one of the "rebels", old enough to be treated separately from the teenagers. So the authorities consider him a suitable case to be punished as an example (and threat) for others.
A lot of people are standing in solidarity with Iliopoulos. Another prisoner, Nikos Tsouvalakis begun a hunger strike in the same day, just in solidarity with his fellow prisoner Iliopoulos. Several MPs of the Coalition of Radical Left are standing in solidarity (among them Anastasios Kourakis who broke the siege on Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement, about a year ago), with press conferences and letters to the authorities, but also an MP from the Socialist Party was present at the most recent press conference. Although this is the period of vacations and all the Greeks are in the countryside or at the beach, small protests are organized in many places all over the country. But it's true that this is a difficult time…
In 1937, while he was still in Britain, Alfred Hitchcock made a great thriller named "Young and Innocent" about a man falsely accused. The spectators know that the accused is innocent and that's the reason they are thrilled to see if he will manage to prove his innocence. This summer we are witnessing the thriller of another Young and Innocent man, Thodoris Iliopoulos. But this is not a film. It's real life. And Thodoris' life is in danger.

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The photo of Thodoris Iliopoulos is from his personal archive
The photo of the policemen pointing the gun at the protesters is the one that cost photojournalist Kostas Tsironis his job…


Sources: Solidarity Initiative with Thodoris Iliopoulos, Eleytherotypia news paper, Amnesty International