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Hunger strike threatens the life of a terror suspect

02 December 2014 / 19:12:19  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Nikos Romanos, who is famous for his involvement in the attempted armed robbery of the branch of the National Bank of Greece in the town of Velventos near Kozani in February 2013, began a hunger strike 23 days ago in protest against the refusal to be granted a leave from prison to attend lectures at the university. Last summer he passed the exams for the university which he took from Korydallos prison where he is serving his sentence.

Romanos and his three accomplices were accused of involvement in the terrorist group "Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei". Although he attached a political meaning to the offence, the court had sentenced the four of them for a criminal offence, not for terrorism.

For several days now, Nikos Romanos has been in "George Genimatas" hospital in Athens, under guard, due to the deterioration of his health. The physicians at the hospital have expressed resentment at the increased police presence and have urged the Ministry of Justice to satisfy his request. At the same time, however, the hospital has not yet issued an official statement on the condition of Romanos.

There was a procession in his support near the hospital on Saturday. At some point, he appeared at the window and greeted the participants in the protest.

Today, his parents and members of leftist parties and movements held a press conference on the case. Within its context, physician Lina Vergopoulou stated that Romanos’ life is in danger, because 23 days after the start of the hunger strike he has lost 10 percent of his body weight. She said that dangerous and lethal cardiac arrhythmias as well as renal and brain failures are threatening Romanos but refused to describe his condition. She said, however, "the spirit of Nikos Romanos is high and he is determined to continue the hunger strike to the end," without the infusion of glucose and other liquid substances, as is the practice during a hunger strike.

In relation to the possibility of him being subjected to force-feeding, Vergopoulou said he will definitely oppose that. "Force-feeding is torture and it is declared such by the Declaration of Tokyo that was adopted in 1975. Those physicians who participate or give guidance on how to implement it or follow the procedure as observers are accomplices in torture," she stressed.

In his statement Nikos’ father George Romanos stressed that his child’s life is in great danger, adding that if the hunger strike ended in the most tragic way, the responsibility for this would be a burden to Greek Minister of Justice Haralambos Athanasiou.

According to teacher of criminology in Paris Anastasia Tsoukala, the Minister has deliberately waited for the reactions of various parties and organizations in support of Nikos Romanos before making the statement of considering the probability of him being instructed on a distance basis by video conference lectures. She however opposed this solution to the issue by saying, "The idea for the provision of a leave from prison has a single purpose, namely to not break the link between prisoners and society in order for them to not turn into savages." According to her, upon creating the law that provides for the leaves the legislators had taken into account the risk of prisoners taking inappropriate advantage of them. "As the law provides prisoners with that right, they should obtain it," she was firm and accused the Minister stating that "he is transferring the logic of prisons with the highest level of security to those where it is lower. That is why the proposal of the Minister is dangerous."

Representatives of various parties and organizations attended the press conference and expressed support for Nikos Romanos and his associates Yiannis Michailidis and Andreas - Dimitris Bourzoukos who have been on a hunger strike for several days now in sympathy with his request. It is worth noting that physician Lina Vergopoulou whom Romanos himself has chosen to follow his condition is the mother of Bourzoukos.

Several members of SYRIZA were among those present, including Zoe Konstandopoulou and Thassos Kourakis. PASOK, the Communist Party of Greece, To Potami (the river – author’s note) and Minister of Education Andreas Loverdos expressed support for Romanos through written appeals.

There was another round of protests and a march in support of Nikos Romanos in Athens and other Greek cities late on Tuesday afternoon. The campaigns will continue in the coming days in anticipation of the judicial council to make the final decision on the leaves from prison.


Tags: Crime newsNikos RomanosHunger strikeAttempted armed robberyConspiracy of Fire NucleiAlexis Grigoropoulos
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