#rbnews weekly bulletin 20-26 April 2013

The text companion to this week’s #rbnews international show is now online. You can read it after the jump.

“The hospital of Nikaia is a hospital. It is a space of comfort and care for the poor, for refugees, for migrants. It was always this and this it shall remain.” This was the response of the doctors of the General State Hospital of Nikaia, one of the largest in greater Athens, immediately after members of Golden Dawn sought to invade the hospital in the morning of Wednesday 24 April.
According to testimonies from doctors, nurses and patients, 25 members of the neo-Nazi party entered the hospital from both the front and back doors. Many of them were wearing not only Golden Dawn t-shirts but also helmets and were carrying wooden rods with Greek flags. They managed to take pictures of themselves in front of the hospital and the gynaecological clinic before they were noticed. When asked why they were there, they said that they were distributing food. The coordinated reaction of the hospital community forced them to leave under the boos and catcalls of a crowd of health workers and ordinary citizens who gathered in the hospital courtyard.
This specific Golden Dawn action seems to be part of a larger plan by the neo-Nazi group to intervene in the health sector in Greece. This week in particular, Golden Dawn had announced an initiative to organize a nationwide blood donation scheme under the slogan “blood only for Greeks” in several hospitals across the country. This initiative to introduce racist discrimination in health services caused angry reactions in many large regional hospitals such as Larissa and Samos. The reaction of the Panhellenic Federation of Hospital Workers played a decisive role in blocking Golden Dawn’s move. In its statement, the Federation called upon all health workers’ unions to implement strictly protocols for blood donations and to prevent their transformation into “fiestas of national and racial purity.” The Federation also called upon the Ministry of Health to stand up to its obligations on this matter.
The Panhellenic Association of Doctors also intervened, specifying that “any doctor who participates in events that promote discrimination is crudely violating the terms of his oath and the medical Code of Ethics and will be held accountable under the law”. The Association also called upon the National Centre for Blood Donations and the Ministry of Health to take all necessary measures to “protect the sacred character of blood donation.”

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Reactions continued this week over the issue of censorship against Indymedia and Radio Entasi, two independent student media hosted in Athens universities whose webpages were taken down ten days ago after pressure from the authorities. On Monday 22 April, students and activists occupied the offices of the dean of the University of Crete in a symbolic protest.
On Wednesday, a group of protesters gathered in front of the historical building of the University of Athens and raised a large banner against censorship in solidarity with the two media. Some climbed on the roof of the building to take down the Greek flag and raise instead the red and black flag of anarchy. A large police force intervened and proceeded with a mass detention of 69 peaceful protesters, of which 6 were finally arrested and charged with “insult to national symbols.” Among those detained were two British tourists who were released soon afterwards. All the other detainees were gradually released by Wednesday evening.
Journalists and photoreporters covering the protest reported that, during the police sweep operation, some policemen sought to intimidate them, asking for their personal details and seeking to prevent them from doing their work. In two cases, policemen threatened photoreporters with lawsuits if they published pictures where the faces of the policemen were visible.
On Thursday afternoon, a march in solidarity with Indymedia and Radio Entasi took place on downtown Athens, with approximately 3000 participants.
It must also be noted that, according to a document provided by the office of the dean of the Athens Polytechnic University where the Indymedia server is located, the offenses considered by the judiciary for Indymedia include, among others, “establishing a criminal organization”, “terrorist actions” and “repeated cases of arson.” However, no charges have been brought so far. It must be reminded here that, according to Reporters without Borders, Greece currently ranks at number 84 in the freedom of the press index, behind all other EU countries but also behind several developing countries that are not famous for their democratic regimes. Greece has dropped 49 spots in the index since the beginning of the Eurozone crisis in 2009.

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The three foremen who opened fire on 17 April on a crowd of mostly Bangladeshi farm workers in Manolada, Peloponnese, on 17 April were taken on Monday 22 April to the investigating magistrate, who decided to maintain them in prison until their trial. The workers were demanding payment of 6 months of wages, and 28 had to be hospitalized after the shooting. The owner of the farm, Nikos Vangelatos, was also imprisoned as the moral instigator of the shooting. Relatives of the perpetrators gathered outside the courthouse, where the situation was tense.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor of the Supreme Court ruled that the 35 wounded workers should be included under specific protection rules for victims of racist crimes. They were defined as victims of human trafficking, which effectively means that they cannot be deported. However, the farm worker who denounced the shooting and is an essential witness for the prosecution, Shahin Ahmed, was arrested this week, on what many denounced as trumped-up charges of drug trafficking. The Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat further reported that Ahmed was beaten by the police during his arrest.

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The Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat also denounced this week the beating of a detained undocumented migrant by a policeman with fascist tendencies in the Piraeus police station. Amir Hussein was reportedly interrupted as he led afternoon prayers by the policeman, on the argument that “this is Greece.” The Movement also reports that the policeman threatened Amir Hussein with prolonged detention, saying “I can add charges to your file”. Another detainee, Asef Iqbal, who was mourning the death of his mother, was similarly beaten on 18 April. The police commander also told the chairman of the Pakistani community in Greece who visited the police station to complain that “Justice was not born in your country but in ours.”  12 detainees from Pakistan and Bangladesh went on hunger strike in protest.
These cases of racist violence in the Piraeus police station are not isolated, as seen in the annual report of the Racist Violence Recording Network, a coalition of agencies and NGOs established to record racist attacks in Greece. The Network registered 154 racist attacks in 2012, of which 17 were perpetrated by people in uniform, chiefly policemen, while a further 7 were perpetrated inside state detention facilities. It must be noted that the Network uses extremely high standards to record an attack, demanding in particular a detailed testimony from victims, while the organizations forming the Network cover a limited geographical scope, which means that the actual number of attacks that go unregistered is much, much higher. For example, the Pakistani community alone reports more than 1000 attacks against its members in 2012.
The Network’s report further notes only 24 of the registered victims filed a lawsuit against their attackers, with another 23 intending to do so, while the rest will not because of fear of deportation as they lack legal residence papers in Greece. Quoting from the report, “there is a widespread impression that, even if the victims report the incident to the competent authorities, they will find no justice. A significant, though not general, trend is that victims do not receive any substantial assistance from the police, and, on the opposite, they often face indifference and are also deterred from officially denouncing the incident. There are numerous cases recorded in 2012 illustrating this phenomenon: 1) a victim alleges that when trying to report the incident, he was told “there is nothing the police can do, that’s how things are in Greece”; 2) another victim reports that a police officer retorted “we know the game, you, foreigners, play, you’d better leave”; 3) a victim reports that while he was being beaten in the street, a police officer intervened but instead of arresting the perpetrators, he kicked him and told him to leave from the area; 4) a victim was deprived of his asylum applicant’s document (pink card) while trying to file a complaint in police station and had to return accompanied by a lawyer in order to collect it back; 5) a victim who was beaten while exiting a police station reports that the attack was linked to a prior threatening and offensive behavior of a police officer in his regard. These indicative reports show that a significant number of prosecuting agents consider racist attacks as a daily and ordinary phenomenon, they dismiss the reported cases as insignificant and show, therefore, no will to tackle it. They avoid intervening during racist attacks and when they do so, they treat victims with indifference and mistrust, and/or discourage them from filing official complaints.”
The issue of police violence and impunity in Greece, which has been repeatedly denounced by Amnesty International, seems to be worsening. Today 27 April, a workshop about “policemen’s families in the crisis” is taken place in the northern city of Veria. At the end of the workshop, prizes will be awarded to the four policemen who arrested 4 anarchists accused of a bank robbery in Velvento near Kozani earlier this year. This is the notorious case in which the four arrested men were beaten so badly that the police had to crudely photoshop their mug shots in order to make them public. Formal and informal rights groups and independent media denounced the fact that the policemen involved in the arrests and possibly the beatings will be awarded prizes while no investigation has been ordered into the possibility of torture.
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On Saturday 20 April, Minister of Justice Antonis Roupakiotis was due to participate in an event organized by the Thessaloniki Lawyers’ Association. The minister, who was in the end not able to come, would have been greeted by a rally outside the Association’s offices organized by lawyers who were protesting the breach of dozens of laws in the arrest and interrogation of two men from Ierissos who are accused of participating in the arson attack against the Skouries worksite of mining company Eldorado Gold on 17 February. Eldorado Gold and its Greek subsidiary Hellas Gold own the ore mining rights in the northern region of Halkidiki, where they are facing strong opposition from the local population, who claim that implementation of the mining project will destroy all other economic activity in their area and ruin forever its environment, which is of exceptional biodiversity and natural beauty.
The lawyers who were intending to participate in the Thessaloniki protest never made it to the building, which was cordoned off by riot police. Minor incidents took place.
On Monday, the municipal forestry service suspended logging activities undertaken by the mining company in the Skouries forest because the operating permits held by the company may not cover such activities. Finally this week, the European Left Party issued a statement in which it expresses its full support to the movement against gold mining in Greece, while the people of Halkidiki also received support from Stockholm during rallies against mining in Sweden.

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The 46th anniversary of the coup that brought to power the Junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974 was last Sunday 21 April. Citizen and rights groups organized several events to commemorate the anniversary, to remind the population of the nature of the regime, to emphasize analogies between the regime then and today’s situation and to protest the authoritarian drive of today’s political circles.
A march in Athens stopped by the offices of the European Commission and ended in front of the US embassy. Another march took place in Thessaloniki with some 3000 participants.
Meanwhile, a campaign was launched on social media under the slogan “άκου μια ιστορία”, « listen to a story ». Social media users circulated archive documents from the time of the Junta and provided personal stories, with a clear anti-fascist, anti-Junta message.
These movements are of special importance nowadays, seeing the presence in positions of power of individuals such as Makis Voridis, the current parliamentary spokesman for governing party New Democracy, who launched his political career in the 1980s thanks to his direct ties to former dictator Papadopoulos. It was announced this week that, in his capacity as a lawyer, Voridis has taken over the defence of the editor of far-right newspaper “Στόχος”, Target, in a defamation lawsuit. Failos Kranidiotis, a close collaborator and confidante of prime minister Antonis Samaras, who is well-known for his public extreme-right statements, was also present at the trial.

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