Filed under: International Coverage
The following is an interview with the Solidarity Fund for Imprisoned and Persecuted Militants in Greece, also known as “Tameio” (meaning cash register in Greek). Urgent financial support and revolutionary solidarity is needed. Please donate to their new FireFund and help spread the word. This interview was conducted with Tameio by anonymous anarchists and submitted anonymously.
In Greece, repression of anarchists and against revolutionaries against the state and capitalism continues to escalate. Brutal repression in the streets runs parallel to harsher judicial sentencing and a prison system that resembles more and more the notoriously heinous prisons of the USA. Tameio is a long-term prisoner support and anti-repression project in Greece, and is in desperate need of funds in order to continue providing its indispensable support for those facing trial and imprisonment under the Greek state.
This interview was conducted in June, but publishing was postponed in order to include this FireFund crowdfunding effort to which we encourage donation. Shortly before submitting this, Giannis Michailidis, also known as the archer of Syntagma, has suspended a 68-day long hunger strike demanding the release from prison to which he’s legally entitled. The state was clearly willing to let him die, and although he experienced intense trauma and long-term damage to his organs and overall health, we are happy to still have the courageous and inspiring fighter Giannis with us. The same court of appeals has recently released both the cop (Epaminondas Korkoneas) whom murdered Alexis Grigoropolous and the child rapist Dimitris Lignadis from prison, but continues to imprison Giannis (accused of bank robbery) on the suspicion he may engage in subversive activity again. The facade of Greek neoliberal democracy continues to rot away, showing its truly fascist nature more and more every day.
The movement remains strong, but revolutionary and international solidarity is needed from those beyond the imaginary borders of Greece. In this interview we discuss Tameio as a political group, what they do, and ways to support them. We’ve also included further reading links throughout the interview on the broader political situation in Greece for those unfamiliar with it.
Our passion for freedom is stronger than their cells!
Our revolutionary solidarity is an unconditional victory!
How and when was Tameio formed?
The Solidarity Fund for Imprisoned and Persecuted Militants (Tameio) was established in 2010. It was formed at a time of intense social revolt following the insurrection of December 08’, amidst a broader “economic crisis”. Intense capitalist restructuring triggered a revolutionary movement to be in full bloom. Resistance was met with intense unprecedented repression, resulting in an ever-increasing number of political prisoners. It is in this context that the Solidarity Fund was formed. Tameio set out to provide regular and consistent support to those persecuted or imprisoned for their subversive action, or for their broader participation in revolutionary social struggles.
The basic aim of Tameio’s structure is to ensure decent living conditions for imprisoned comrades while they are behind bars. Also to create a long-term strategy to make sure our comrades taken by the state know they are never forgotten. We act to provide material solidarity to individuals imprisoned or facing repression: to help with court expenses, bail, medical emergencies, daily life, and more. Additionally, building bridges of communication with those inside prisons from the outside helps improve our bonds, unify struggles, and strengthen our solidarity, and remains an utmost priority for those of us who sustain the project.
From 2010 until today, the Solidarity Fund has been working to maintain consistent political and material support for prisoners specifically through acting as a permanent source seeking to generate funds. We as a group, alongside a variety of comrades and collectives, work tirelessly to make sure our movement has the needed funds to survive the never-ending repression we face.
This moment, as state repression continues to escalate, we are seeing more political prisoners as well as higher legal costs. Regardless of the current situation and what the near future may bring, we are already providing monthly survival support to 25 prisoners in Greece (last names are listed first): Koufontinas Dimitris, Michailidis Giannis, Xiros Savvas, Petrakakos Giorgos, Sakkas Kostas, Stathopoulos Vangelis, Christodoulou Spyros, Thanos Chatziaggelou, Panagiotis Kalaitzis, Georgia Voulgari, Charis Mantzouridis, Iasonas Rodopoulos, Fotis Daskalas, Harika Kızılkaya, Hazal Seçer, Sinan Oktay Özen, Sinan Çam, Ali Ercan Gökoğlu, Burak Ağarmış, Halil Demir, Hasan Kaya, Anıl Sayar, İsmail Zat, and Şadi Naci Özpolat.
In many cases we also try to cover– as much as our (financial) capabilities allow– the legal expenses and bail of comrades who are persecuted for their political identities, actions, or association with imprisoned militants.
How do you determine the types of prisoners or individuals you will support?
The Solidarity Fund supports people who are targeted or imprisoned for their involvement in revolutionary social or class struggles. We support those engaged in subversive action, within the spectrum of a multi-faceted anti-state and anti-capitalist revolutionary movement.
We also support comrades who end up in prison, charged with offenses that are not directly related to politically subversive action, but where their political identity or known participation in the movement has led to them being targeted and opportunistically punished by the state. Likewise, when brutal state repression criminalizes comradery (human solidarity itself), we choose to support individuals who stand with dignity, who are being targeted due to mere association. Furthermore for us it is an essential and non-negotiable precondition that any prisoner or comrade we support refuses any type of cooperation with the authorities during their arrest and imprisonment. We do not support anyone who betrays this ethic, or violates the safety of our broader revolutionary community.
We also stand in solidarity with specific cases of social prisoners who, while in prison, became radicalized and connected to our revolutionary movement. Social prisoners who have been radicalized by their current conditions in the hellholes known as prison continue to struggle and fight with dignity from behind bars. We see critical importance in connecting different struggles and finding common solidarity within and outside the prison.
We also consider the political and practical support to detained or repressed immigrants very important. The Greek state, especially since the dawn of the so-called “refugee crisis”, has created an array of pogroms looking to torture and imprison immigrants and refugees within various concentration camps across the country (and in the seas, out of sight). We also try to raise funds when possible for the various initiatives that exist here that look to show solidarity to these struggling communities.
Above all, we are against any type of confinement, and for this reason we will continue to fight alongside all those mentioned above.
Was the coronavirus weaponized against prisoners during the lock down to make for stricter conditions or try and make prisoners ill?
Thousands are being stored, literally, on top of each other, under inhumane and shameful conditions. This does not come as a surprise regarding Greek prisons. Yet, under the prior and present circumstances of the pandemic, the situation has grown to resemble a nightmare in a greater degree.
Greek prisons are shamelessly overcrowded, with the forced packing of prisoners in cells and wards, reminiscent of human beehives. Inadequate – and in some cases – non-existent medical care is the norm in most prisons. The prisons refuse to provide personal protective equipment (such as antiseptics), extremely vulnerable people remain incarcerated, and ripe conditions for pandemic outbursts that could trigger significant sickness and death behind bars remains high, and has been the case since the pandemic began. This may amount to the death penalty for many people in prisons here. The cases of Covid-19 being reported from every prison of the country intensify our worry concerning the conditions under which they have to live inside the prison’s walls. During this period, there were also deaths such as the death of two prisoners in the Diavata prison.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in the country, during the spring of 2020, this particular worry was the cause of a series of prison mobilizations with key demands against the congestion of prisons and for the basic implementation of protective measures for inmates. The starting point of these mobilizations was Korydallos women’s prison and was followed by the prisons in Chania (Crete), Agios Stefanos (Patras) and Larissa. Around 856 inmates from all the wings of Korydallos men’s prison came together to sign and publish a statement of demands for their safety. In the rural prison of Kassandra, area in Chalkidiki (North Greece), the prisoners stopped working in order to react against the prison’s administration and the ministry, who still haven’t managed to implement any measures regarding the pandemic in terms of helping to preserve the safety of prisoner’s lives. Covid was an opportunity for the state to further torture those behind bars, and continues to be to this day.
Are there specific cases or current trials that are going on now you would like to reference?
The appeal trial of comrades Vangelis Stathopoulos and Dimitris Chatzivasileiadis is currently ongoing for the case of the robbery of a betting office and alleged association to the Organization: “Revolutionary Self-Defense”. During their initial trial they were sentenced to 19 (Vangelis) and 16 years (Dimitris) in prison. All started in October 2019, after a robbery in a betting office, where one of the two participants was injured. In November 2019, armament was allegedly found and attributed, according to the police, to the Organization “Revolutionary Self-Defense”. Then, Vangelis Stathopoulos and another person were arrested by “anti-terror” police and remanded into custody. Vangelis Stathopoulos denied any involvement in the organization “Revolutionary Self-Defense”, but had admitted to helping the injured anarchist Dimitris Chatzivasileiadis with a medical emergency.
Without any involvement in the original robbery of the betting shop, the prosecution chose to punish comrade Vangelis, because he showed his solidarity in practice when helping the wounded anarchist Dimitris Chatzivasileiadis. Thus, he was taken to the prison in Larissa, where he is kept until today. Meanwhile, Dimitris Chatzivasileiadis went underground and participated in the public political debate, defending the revolutionary action. On August 9, 2021, unfortunately he was arrested after an armed bank robbery in Thessaloniki and today he is being held in prison in Domokos.
Has the election of the new government (New Democracy) and the recent formal lifting of University asylum laws in Greece been a big disruption to fundraising efforts for political prisoners and against repression? What role did Universities’ campuses play in helping support prisoners up until now?
Greek university campuses have historically played a vital role in revolutionary and radical political movements here. Many events on campus grounds, or squatted areas inside the university have helped to raise awareness, and spread political and financial support for political prisoners and comrades facing repression. This has been the case for decades. Due to the uprising of the Polytechnic University (Where the Greek Junta murdered 24 peopled to try and quell an uprising.) in Exarchia, Athens, in 1974, the “asylum” law was established, where police were technically unable to enter into the premises of the universities. In the 2010s however, the state slowly starting ceasing to follow the law, and eventually revoked the “asylum” law through official legislative appeal in 2019 under the current New Democracy regime.
A crucial squat of 34-years was evacuated as the state began increasing repression on university campuses. This was the “Steki sto Biologiko” at the University of Thessaloniki in December 2021. This was a critical space for political events, and specifically for generating material and political solidarity with prisoners and against state repression. At the moment, the state has implemented a plan for the permanent presence of police inside the universities. This strategic lifting of the “asylum laws” have caused serious disruption to the solidarity movement, since now it is much more difficult to hold events aimed at both the economic support and broader political solidarity for our imprisoned comrades and those facing state repression. This is among a broader state plan, which aims at the reconstruction of education, the general devaluation of our lives and the suppression of radical movements. The necessity for political action and agitation, as well as the support of those who are persecuted because of that, is as always critical.
Hunger strikes seem to be a consistent form of desperate resistance inside Greek prisons? Is there a historical element to this?
Since the 80s in Greece, hunger strikes have been a consistent form of struggle inside prisons. Hunger strikes are ways prisoners can resist with their bodies within prison walls in order to demand liberation of a prisoner, request temporary release, request education, or seek better living conditions and benefits inside the harsh life of jail. The movement supports strongly these struggles via various actions, and historically many have succeeded in reaching their demands. The most recent example is the hunger strike of the anarchist Giannis Michailidis that lasted from May 23rd to July 29th of this year (2022). Although the comrade has completed his required sentence and has established the right to be released according to the law, the judicial council rejected his request. The official reason for this is that he has not regretted his actions performed during his escape (from jail). The state seeks to take symbolic revenge against him, in order to make an example of him; even violating its own laws in doing so.
Are there ways to keep up to date on the cases of anarchists and revolutionaries in Greece facing repression? Are there also helpful resources generally for staying up to date with the anarchist movement in Greece?
You can find information on the cases of anarchists and revolutionaries in Greece in our site https://www.tameio.org/. You can also visit the site athens.indymedia.org where you can find several texts in English regarding these topics, and general information regarding the political movement in Greece.
Are there ways to help and show solidarity from abroad? What are the best ways to demonstrate this? Are there ways for people to donate to the defence or support of Tameio, or anarchists and revolutionary political prisoners facing repression or currently incarcerated in Greece?
Despite our various publications of support, solidarity campaigns, and financial aid events, we could very much use additional financial support from those around the world who support our project. Our project continues due to our passion for solidarity. The support of comrades from abroad remains a very important one to our project. This support both develops a sense of solidarity and interaction with collectives and organizations internationally and also substantially and actively helps Tameio to cover the daily needs of prisoners. Therefore, a basic aim of its members is the maintenance and strengthening of international relations, in an attempt to network and even to collectivize the resistance, both outside and inside the prison walls. This effort includes communication and organizing of events abroad as well as hosting events and offering hospitality for comrades here (in Greece).
During these 10 years of activity, we have turned to comrades and collectives many times, as securing financial resources has always been a difficult process. During this crucial period of time for all of us, regarding both the “economic crisis” and the repulsive mechanisms of control that the state continues to impose and have grown exponentially over the last two years (using the pandemic as an excuse), it is again extremely difficult to secure the resources to support the material needs of those imprisoned. Unfortunately, this has to be added up to the already difficult times that our comrades are facing within the prisons, as well as the prison population as a whole, and this is why we are once again turning to our comrades around the world for support.
The slogan “no one left alone in the hands of the state” is becoming more crucial these days than ever. We urge you to defend it once again in practice. Sincere solidarity is our weapon!
Until the demolition of the last prison!
We support the imprisoned militants, materially, ethically, and politically!
-Solidarity fund for persecuted and imprisoned militants.