Greece. Statement by anarchist prisoner Giannis Michailidis on the start of his hunger strike.
After 8.5 years in prison, after all these arbitrary actions against me, I decided to put an end to my 11 years of suffering, by putting a stop to the practice of pre-trial detention, or the additional punishment of escape through legal loopholes. After 5 more months of pre-trial detention, I start a hunger strike for my release. This choice, with the deep motivation of the much desired freedom, I intend to support it with the same consistency that I have supported my choices so far and for which I am being persecuted.
“Woe to those who will accept prison as a condition of life, and from the brightest sunlight, the smallest ray” – The rallying cry of the Alikarnassos prison uprising
For 11 years I have experienced state vengeance against choices in line with my values and ideas. The difficult journey, from which I choose to share some blatant vengeful acts of arbitrariness against me, began in the distant 2011, when an arrest warrant was issued against me for the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire case, for which I was eventually acquitted as there was not the slightest connection between me and the charge against me. It was the incrimination of a relationship of solidarity with wanted anarchists that put me in their place when they were arrested.
After 2 years of being on the run, I too am now walking through the heavy doors of prison, as the existence of a warrant that entails a decade of incarceration has led to certain choices and consequent mistakes. The comrades who were arrested at the time in the bank robbery in Velvento, Kozani, were tortured by the police, which is common, and then the Ministry of Public Order published photos of our swollen faces, provoking a public reaction. Of course, no police officer was accused of this by the blind Greek justice system.
After 1.5 years, as the 18 months were coming to an end, I found myself burdened with another pre-trial detention concerning the activities of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, with a case file containing my name as a participant in acts with which I was not connected, not even a single piece of evidence or testimony. Naturally, since the dirty work had been done and I had already been convicted in the bank robbery case, I was eventually acquitted. This particular strategy of multiple detentions without evidence and the fragmentation of single cases was the tool with which the state ensured that anarchist prisoners remained in prison without trial even after the maximum 18-month detention limit had expired, at the same time that the fascist murderers enjoyed their freedom after the 18-month detention period had expired.
I was also convicted by blind justice of attempted manslaughter against a police officer, despite being unarmed at the time of the incident, because, according to the indictment, I attempted to murder him using the police car I had grabbed to escape arrest.
In a culmination of judicial arbitrariness, I am sentenced to an additional 11 years in prison for possession of ammunition, which was found in the house of comrade Dimitris Politis, which he declared to be his, on the inconceivable grounds that we all possessed them together in order to commit ‘individual terrorism’, each one separately and on his own. For the record, to this day, this case and the heavy sentences it brought about remains the only application of the law on individual terrorism in Greek judicial chronicles. The fact that this unprecedented ridiculousness was also upheld by the Supreme Court demonstrates the degree to which the “independent” judiciary is intertwined with party and government directives and how common it has become to try cases with legal loopholes.
Let us say a few words about the “sacred” educational process in the context of penitentiary education. After the hunger strike of comrade Nikos Romanos, in which I had the honour to participate in solidarity, the right to educational leave was won for all prisoners, regardless of their status. So after delays and procrastination after 5 years of imprisonment I managed to attend classes at the Agricultural University of Athens for 1.5 years. At 6.5 years, and since I am already in an agricultural prison and have already received many educational permits from there, the prosecutor of Tirynthas decides that my school is far away and therefore cuts off my permits. I am being deceived that they will give me leave for the exam which is not happening either. I am then informed that they will also cut off my regular leave, again with a legal loophole, which meant that I would return to the closed prison losing my precious wages, and I am driven to escape again. After being recaptured and applying for transfer to Korydallos for educational reasons as provided for by their laws, because the KEM (Central Transfer Committee) cannot reject my applications they choose not to respond. Even though they are “required” by law to respond in 40 days… I am still waiting… And even though I have gone through all the theory courses of my school under adverse conditions (For the labs I am required to be physically present which apparently I am not allowed to do if I don’t go).
On December 29, 2021, having served 3/5 of my 20-year sentence and 2/5 of the sentence for the escape, a total of 8 years and 3 months of actual time served, the prison registry calls me to sign the application for conditional release as stipulated.
Arriving at the last episode, I, in turn, was also confronted with the prison mechanism’s standard policy of taking revenge on unsubmissive prisoners by refusing to grant parole, despite the essential condition of successfully completing my school course (preventing me from completing it) and the fact that I have already found a job. Again, with a legal loophole. This time with the argument of potential dangerousness… as a precautionary measure. Since not enough time has passed for me to be ” rehabilitated” and corrected… Obvious nonsense that they don’t even believe themselves, they just reproduce it processively by mutilating the lives of so many prisoners. Of course people who are truly dangerous recidivists, such as rapists, are not used in this argument because as the vile subjects they are they cooperate flawlessly with the correctional system and benefit from early release and parole. Dangerous people are usually described as those who made the dignified choice to escape, which the law is not supposed to punish severely because the legislature recognizes that it is normal for every human being to assert his or her freedom. That is why the officials of the system are not satisfied with the application of the law and extend its interpretation.
The legal loophole is the rule of the system’s operation. The judges who implement it were probably somehow appointed as party stooges, building careers on the backs of the poor prisoners they send to the gallows with great ease, handing out years like chickpeas, while huge sums of money flow through big lawyers to get the ones who have it released or not even imprisoned. So do their own children, for whom legal loopholes are opened to get out…
Like the cop killer of comrade Alexandros Grigoropoulos, Korkoneas, whom the judicial mafia rushed to release early, causing widespread opposition, which led to his re-incarceration.
Like the cops who murdered Nikos Sampanis in cold blood in Perama.
Like the prison officers who tortured to death Ilir Kareli who were acquitted.
Like Mrs Vlahaki, involved in the Energa scandal of millions, who escaped by cutting off her bracelet, and spent very little time in prison, securing immediate parole.
Like Fourthiotis who by sucking up to the Ministry of Justice managed to get out of jail at 6 months, but then the legal window opened for him to be re-imprisoned as he brought the government’s dirty laundry out into the open.
Like Vaggelis Marinakis who was cleared of charges for 3 tons of heroin on the grounds that a prominent businessman like him could not be associated with such a thing. The latter example, although I am not in a position to know about his guilt or not, and I am not interested in it, is of particular importance precisely because it demonstrates in the clearest possible way the class nature of the judicial system. Of course, if a user is arrested for possession of a small amount of drugs and is in a group of three people, he is convicted under the legal loophole of criminal organization (which is how Greece has more criminal organizations than Italy or Mexico).
The examples require a whole book to be written, I don’t know how many volumes, so I’m getting to the essence of this letter. After 8.5 years in prison, after all these arbitrary actions against me, I decided to end my 11 years of suffering by putting up a barricade to the practice of pre-trial detention, or the additional punishment of escape with legal loopholes. After 5 more months of pre-trial detention, I start a hunger strike for my release. This choice, with the deep motivation of the much desired freedom, I intend to support it with the same consistency that I have supported my choices so far and for which I am being vengefully punished.
It is my deep desire that this hunger strike will become another trigger for the revival of the overall struggle against capital and the states. The capitalist system that concentrates half the wealth of the earth in an elite of 1% while rapidly impoverishing the rest, enslaving living souls, not only of our species, to the torturous condition of industrial production. Its corporations, competing in the plunder of natural resources, depleting the natural world while driving the planet to the brink of climate change while causing the ongoing greatest extinction of species in millions of years. The state structuring of society, marketed as necessary by its left and right-wing administrators, with its centralized social structure, to impose generalized enslavement and ensure the profitability of capital. The states, west and east, whose monopoly of legitimate violence wipes out entire populations, either with ultra-modern weapons of mass destruction, or by instrumentalising starvation by destroying infrastructure, as in a series of recent conflicts in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine. The international alliances that have turned the earth into a powder keg of nuclear warheads threatening to literally blow it up, proving that states are the real terrorists.
With the generalized attack that the states and capital have launched on all living life, including our species, it is as necessary and timely as ever to organize and put forward our resistance, rejecting any form of hierarchical organization that makes the struggle vulnerable to manipulation resulting in either the reproduction of the system or its assimilation into the system. The sharpening and unification of the individual aspects of struggle against the state machines through decentralized networks of eco-communities and communities of struggle is the key tool of radicalization in the direction of weakening people’s dependence on the capitalist industrial system that is destroying the land and threatening their very survival.
That is why, at such a critical time, I understand the battle I am waging for my freedom also as a desperate attempt to participate in the larger struggle from which my long imprisonment has cut me off. This is why I do not consider that I should claim exclusivity of movement references, but rather propose to reconnect the struggle for the liberation of imprisoned anarchists with the ideas that led them to conflict with the system and caused their imprisonment. For I am not seeking anyone’s interest as a victim of state repression, but as an active social and political subject who sees my condition of imprisonment as part of the state’s and capital’s attack on those who consciously stand against them. Rather, I call for a relationship of revolutionary solidarity on the basis of common projections and a common struggle with multiple edges that coordinates the rage felt by different people experiencing different conditions but with the same causes.
And finally, knowing that it is possible that this strike may be the last part of my journey, I wish to give it precisely that dimension which expresses me as a whole:
The struggle for the freedom of one, the struggle for the freedom of all…
…until the destruction of the last cage
a pre-trial prisoner in Malandrinos Prison