Prosecutor slates conditions in northern Greek jails

Newly built prison wings remain empty because state won't hire required staff

Thessaloniki's chief prosecutor says people are being kept for months in police cells during which they never see any sunlight

(File photo) (File photo) A senior prosecutor sent to inspect a prisons in northern Greece has reported to the justice minister that the conditions he found made him "ashamed of the Greek state and everybody concerned".

Panayis Giannakis, who is the chief prosecutor in Thessaloniki, said conditions at Nigrita remand centre in Serres and court holding and police cells in Thessaloniki made the "worst possible impression" on him.

In a letter to Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haralambos Athanassiou, Giannakis underlined that the conditions in the prison system could lead to disturbances or riots.

He said that while Nigrita remand centre in Serres appears "spacious, modern and very safe", only three of its five wings are operating due to staff shortages.

Nigrita is one of five new prisons in the country. Each of its wings is built to accommodate 120 detainees, and the three in use are overcrowded.

Giannakis said a similar situation existed in Chania, where only two of the available five wings are operating, meaning 600 remand places could be made available if the "state appointed the small number of prison wardens and administrators required, the lack of which is the only reason why they are not functioning".

"I cannot see how, as I have pointed out in previous reports, for the state to invoke the current economic situation as the reason for the non-recruitment of staff and, on the other hand, to legislate at regular intervals, such as with [a law passed in October], against 'bottlenecks' in prison," he said. 

Giannakis added that the court transfer service in Thessaloniki was "unacceptable to say the least" and was "inconsistent with the country's legal culture".

"Up to 15 or 20 prisoners are crowded into cells containing only nine beds, without any regard for whether they are minors or adults, in custody or convicted criminals, drug addicts, perpetrators of economic crimes or special criminal cases," Giannakis said in his report.

He said that on any particular day, up to 350 people are being detained in police cells in Thesssaloniki. As detainees can be held there for up to nine months, this posed "serious health risks".

"It is inhuman and totally unacceptable for these people. Cells are not appropriate places to detain people for five to six months, during which time they see no sunshine," he said.

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