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Hunger striker enters 31st day of protest

Kostas Sakkas is demanding his release after more than 2½ years on remand

In detention since December 2010, anarchist Kostas Sakkas has had his remand extended beyond the legal limit and has not been put on trial for any offences

A poster calling for the release of Kostas Sakkas A poster calling for the release of Kostas Sakkas There is increasing concern for the health of a 29-year-old man who has completed a month on hunger strike in protest at being imprisoned without trial for over two and a half years.

Kostas Sakkas, who started his protest on June 4, has been in hospitalised since June 17 at Nikea general hospital, following his transfer from Korydallos prison in Piraeus.

On Thursday, he entered his 31st day on a full hunger strike, during which he has refused all food, including sugared water. 

On 4 December 2010, Sakkas, who states that he is an anarchist, was arrested, along with another man, in the Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni, while leaving a rented warehouse where arms were being stored.

He was subsequently charged with membership of an unknown terrorist organisation and aggravated possession of a firearm.

He has been kept on remand since, with the authorities renewing his pretrial detention period twice. Firstly, in the summer of 2012 for an additional year, when the legal maximum of one and a half years was completed.

Last month, an appeals court extended his remand for another six months, a move his lawyers say is illegal as exceeds the maximum amount of time a person can be kept in pretrial custody.

His lawyer, Marina Daliani, has said that "only solution is to resort to the European Court of Human Rights".

The decision to extend his remand resulted in Sakkas acting on his warning that he would go on hunger strike in protest. He is demanding his immediate release.

Police photo of Kostas Sakkas Police photo of Kostas Sakkas Additional charges

During his incarceration, he was subsequently charged – twice – with membership of the Fire Cells Conspiracy (SPF) group, although he and the group have insisted that this is not the case.

He says that his name doesn't appear once in the case file involving the Fire Cells Conspiracy charges.

Sakkas accepts that he has been active politically as an anarchist, which is not a criminal activity in itself.

"Since the beginning, I have admitted my connection with this place as well as the weapons found there. I have stated, since the first moment, that I am an anarchist and that my presence in this specific place was related to my political identity and the choices I make as a consequence of this," he wrote from his prison cell on May 29.

"I have clarified in the past – as the SPF did for their part – that I’m not a member of this organisation. I didn’t do this to avoid the vengeful, punitive odyssey that the bourgeois justice reserves for all those accused of being members of that organisation, but simply because that’s how it is. I ought to set the history straight; not only for me but also for the SPF."

Concerns

A doctor who examined Sakkas on June 28 said he had lost 13kg in weight. Medical colleagues said Sakkas' vital organs face irreparable damage and was in danger of sufferng a heart attack.

On Wednesday, the justice minister, Haralambos Athanassiou, told a delegation of Syriza MPs who approached him about Sakkas' case, that "the Greek justice system will exercise due caution, as it does in other cases".

The length of Sakkas' remand has also been condemned by the Thesssaloniki bar association as a violation of the constitution and the penal code. 

In a comments made recently to Elefterotypia, two lawyers raised their concerns about Sakkas' treatment at the hands of the state.

Constitutional lawyer Yiorgos Katrougalos referred to it as a "grave attack on the rule of law" while Dimitris Katsaris, a lawyer, described it as an "abuse of power, misconduct and moral restraint contrary to the constitution".

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