On the afternoon of July 15, more than 15,000 people gathered in Syntagma Square outside Greek Parliament. They were demonstrating against the new austerity plan and Tsipras surrender to Greek’s creditors. On that day, Tsipras government was debating a new austerity bill that includes pension reform and tax increases. These measures are believed to be the toughest since the crisis began and workers, pensioners and youth are the most hit by the new measures.
During the demonstration, the police attacked demonstrators with tear gas and pepper spray. The police – whose members are known for their support to right-wing extremist and xenophobic party Golden Dawn – launched a concerted attack to disperse the anti-austerity protesters using extreme force specially targeting at left-wing groups.
Some of the activists arrested told that while they were beaten and shoved by batons and dragged by the arms, the police officers asked, “Have you voted Syriza?” and when the demonstrators replied “no”, the police officers asked, “Have you voted Antarsya?”, while kept beating at them.
14 out of the 54 demonstrators arrested during the night of July 15 were prosecuted and sent to trial. The charges were dealt by in two separate trials. Six out of the 14 demonstrators facing prosecution were charged with a serious criminal offence, accused of using weapons and tossing a Molotov cocktail.
The first trial took place on Wednesday July 22 and was adjourned until further notice. The outcome of the second trial, against the remaining eight activists, among them two members of OKDE-Spartakos, an organisation within the anti-capitalist coalition ANTARSYA, was revealed on Tuesday July 28. Three activists were sentenced to several months in jail.
Mikhalis Goudoumas, a member of OKDE-Spartakos, teacher and member of the Union of Workers of the Children Foundation “Pammakaristos”, received a thirteen-month jail suspended sentence. Two protesters also received a 32-month, and 12-month jail suspended sentences. The three protesters received suspended sentences that involve following conditions in a probation order for a period of three years. This means that they will not go directly to prison, but they will have a criminal record. The length of the probation order is 3 years, this means that for that period of time they have to follow certain conditions and if they are found guilty of any criminal offence, whatever small, they will have to go to prison to serve the total length of sentence in jail. The demonstrators have already appealed against the decision with the judiciary authorities while continuing the campaign and mobilisation calling for the dropping of all charges against them and for the convictions to be overturned.
The remaining 5 activists were absolved. Among them is Manthos Tavoularis, who also is a member of OKDE-Spartakos, a bookseller and the general secretary of the Bookstore Workers’ Union in the Attica region of Athens. Manthos had been arrested when intervened to help his workmates to prevent them to be beaten by the police.
A warning to anti-austerity activist: Tsipras and his government are responsible!
In the trial, the testimony of the police was cast as infallible. It lacked the most basic fair trial guarantees, police officers gave false evidence and acted as ‘witnesses’ for the prosecutors amid a context of provocations during the court session itself. The complicity between the judges and the policies was obvious. What is clear is that the government led by Alexis Tsipras wants to send a warning to anti-austerity activists.
These ‘exemplary’ sentences against anti-austerity left-wing activist seek to teach a lesson to those who stand up for themselves and fight back against the austerity plan implemented by the government led by Tsipras and the Troika. They want to make workers, students, young people, pensioners and unemployed people to think employers think twice about taking to the streets and fighting back to oppose austerity.
That explains why the activist received a tough conviction for simply attending a demonstration. The verdict reveals just how hard the Greek government can be in fighting back against those who opposed their plans. Although they will not go immediately to prison, the sentence is like a sword of Damocles hanging over all the convicted activists but also over all who are facing to fight for better living working – already impoverish.
For this reason, it is important to redouble our solidarity with the people of Greece. This is a key moment. The government is asking for toughest measures ever imposed and even more sacrifices to the very people with had deposited their illusions in this government. The government elected under the promise to put an end to austerity has now aligned with the Troika. It is applying the worst measures ever imposed on Greece since the beginning of the crisis and as if this would not be enough the government is also sending the police to those that are confronting the draconian plan.
We reproduce here the statement issued by OKDE-Spartakos published as soon as the verdict of the trial was announced.
Just how powerful and unrestrained a massive police force can be in fighting back against the very people with whom it is charged to protect.
Translation Alejandra Ríos