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Jan 29, 22

The “Comrades” Conspiracy: An Interview on the Greek State’s Use of Pretrial Conditions to Persecute Anarchists

In a world that criminalizes human relations, we remain comrades. — translation of banner in header image.

An anti-terror operation conducted in Athens, Greece on March 8-9, 2020 resulted in the arrest of four people. Those individuals are charged with a long laundry list of different crimes related to fifty-six separate attacks against institutions of state and capital. The flimsy premise by which authorities claim all these dozens of actions are connected is that the alleged communiqués claiming the actions all happened to use the (extremely popular, if not generic) term “comrades.”

After being detained for a week, the four were released under harsh pre-trial conditions. Without having even gone to trial, the four defendants have to pay exorbitant legal fees and report their whereabouts to the police every ten days; they are forbidden to associate with each other or with “political people,” forbidden to leave the country, forbidden to enter the neighborhood of Exarcheia and forbidden to participate in any “political events.” On top of that, their bank accounts are frozen.

This specific case shows how the state can punish anarchists via pre-trial conditions and bureaucracy without needing to prove them guilty. It sets a precedent for future premeditated repression and punishment without conviction, similar to tactics like bail and grand jury subpoenas in the United States.

The following is an interview with one of the defendants about their case and the broader situation of repression in Greece.


Would you introduce yourself and provide some background on your case?

Good evening from the place of the world called Greece. I am one of four anarchists who are persecuted under an anti-terrorist law; accused of participating in the so-called “terrorist” organization “Sintrofises” (“Comrades”). I was arrested on the night of March 8th, 2020 in Athens. My 3 co-defendants were arrested the following day. Friendship and political affinity with each other was the state’s reason for the arrests.

At noon on March 9th, 2020, I was forcefully driven by anti-terrorist police units to my home as they proceeded to raid and search it. While this was happening, anti-terror police units were simultaneously raiding the houses of my 3 comrades, arresting them for an “investigation” they claimed to be about me.

The cops used this alleged “investigation” about me to arrest my 3 other comrades/friends and include them in the prosecution. The next day, the four of us were were brought in for interrogation, and accused of participating in a terrorist organization named “Comrades”. The prosecution claimed we were responsible for 56 attacks against cops, police stations, banks, and so on. The accusations made against us as a result of these 56 alleged attacks include “being ‘members of a terrorist group,’ implementation of terrorist activities, arson, explosion, possession of explosive chemicals and bombs, disorderly conduct of social services, serious grievous bodily harm, criminal damage, and gun possession and use.”

The “evidence” the prosecution claims against me, and finally against the four of us, is a sham “identification” of me from two cops, claiming I was seen at an arson attack against a building controlled by a foundation of the family of Greece’s current prime minister: Kyriakos Mitsotakis. A week later, with only this claim of the two cops as evidence, we were released, however under harsh pre-trial conditions:

1. Report to a police station 3 times a month.
2. Banned from leaving the country.
3. Ban of any form of communication and contact between the four of us.
4. Ban of participation in political marches and gatherings.
5. Ban of entering the neighborhood of Exarcheia (known for its anarchist movements, squats, organizations, and political struggles).

For myself, I had additional pre-trial conditions such as:

6. Banned from leaving my city of birth. (I was forced to leave Athens with a day’s notice and return to where I’m originally from)
7. Banned from entering the city of Athens.
8. Banned from driving any type of motorcycle and or two-wheeler vehicle (despite my only means of transport being a motorcycle).

From the moment we were arrested, we proudly identified ourselves as Anarchists and declared our prosecution a political move by the state against the broader anarchist movement in Greece. From the very beginning of this ridiculous case against us, we denied all the accusations, stating publicly that we are being persecuted exclusively for our Anarchist political identity. The accusations against us are not only ridiculous, they are a desperate move from the “anti-terror” police division to persecute four organized Anarchists without evidence. For example, the famous “identification” of me in a video during the arson attack was analyzed and refuted by the official department of police responsible for video analysis! Of course this meant nothing to the state, as the prosecution went on regardless. Almost equally ridiculous, they have accused the four of us of committing 11 arson attacks in one night, all happening at the same time!!

Α poster calling for solidarity, from a Greek explanation of the case.

Is your case part of a broader campaign of repression to use anti-terrorism to make baseless conspiracy charges easier to fabricate without evidence?

As Anarchists, we must see every case against us as a move of repression against the anarchist movement as a whole, or more broadly, against all social and class struggles. I believe this is the most significant point of militant solidarity, to see an attack against one comrade as an attack against all and act accordingly.

In our case, the prosecution is essentially based on our identity as Anarchists. As another comrade in our case said: “Essentially the name of this famous organization (‘Comrades’) is no more than a signature that has been used by the anarchist/antiauthoritarian movement for years now. It has been used in the past, it is used it in the present, and it will be used in the future. Anyone can find hundreds of texts with the same signature all over Greece and most likely all around the world. This new methodology (the use of a signature on communiques to be grounds for the state to fabricate a ‘terrorist organization’) is something unprecedented that aims only to target a large and diverse field of action of the broader anarchist movement, while intimidating anarchists themselves.”

So, it is obvious that the state is trying to build an “umbrella” case against the whole anarchist movement, using us to set a precedent that anyone identifying as an anarchist/antiauthoritarian could easily become suspect of belonging to a ‘terrorist organization’.

 

While your case is based on clearly ridiculous accusations, is there a broader tradition of the state using the torment and stress of pre-trial conditions and legal bureaucracy in order to punish revolutionary individuals without having actually succeeded in legal prosecution?

Usually, restrictive conditions in Greece are to consistently report to the police confirming you have not fled, being prohibited from leaving the country and prohibited from participating in demonstrations. Harsher conditions are used as release-terms for anarchists after being released from jail. In our case, and especially for myself, the courts decided to enforce some of the harshest pre-trial conditions they could. They don’t have strong “evidence” to jail us, so they create a way to punish us, where the only thing we are free to do is try to survive. These restrictive terms have real effects on the lives of myself and my other three comrades/co-defendants: the dissolution of our social lives and political activities and our financial extermination.

Additionally, for myself, being forced return to my birth-city and being banned from Athens, where I had lived for years, completely cut me off from my personal relationships and forced me to lose my job at the time, making it obvious that this whole case and prosecution is a matter of “personal revenge” by the police against us. Additionally, these restrictive orders that have been forced on me for two years now make it clear that the state wants to not only prosecute anarchists and those it deems enemies, but also to destroy their lives, their relationships, and cause both psychological and physical trauma regardless of having a conviction.

 

In recent years, especially since New Democracy came to power in 2019, have there been new efforts to weaponize anti-terror measures for the repression of anarchists?

In Greece, “anti-terror” measures have been created only as a legal weapon of the state against Anarchists and revolutionary Communists. There are numerous examples of cases prosecuted and or fabricated under ‘anti-terrorist’ law after ND (New Democracy) established power. The prosecution of two anti-fascists accused of attacking Golden Dawn’s (Neo-nazi political party) offices, prosecution of comrades in Thessaloniki accused of belonging to a criminal organization, the imprisonment of comrade Vaggelis Stathopoulos for 19 years only for showing solidarity to a wounded anarchist, the imprisonment of comrade Polykarpos Georgiadis accused of belonging to a terrorist organization with literally no evidence, and many others that will take a book to refer to. All these cases of serious accusations made against comrades have quite a bit in common. The regime nowadays can easily manufacture a “terror” organization, its attacks, and its members. So, as said in a previous statement about my case, an industry of prosecutions has been created out of the police-judicial bureaucracy-government complex.

 

What are some of the ways in which you have been able to generate awareness and solidarity for your case? Are there local anti-repression efforts and/or groups in Greece that help to coordinate solidarity and support for people such as yourself?

Since our arrest in March 2020, comrades have created an open solidarity assembly for support which has coordinated an array of gatherings, demonstrations, solidarity concerts, and a huge campaign to generate financial support for us (T-shirts, Firefund, etc).

Even though the four of us cannot communicate directly with one another, we continue to speak publicly about our case in order to call attention to it as a significant example of repression that must be fought by the broader social-class movements as well as all radicalized individuals.

We have been publishing texts and speaking at anarchist solidarity events, as well as on anarchist/antiauthoritarian radios and sites. It is very important for Anarchists facing repression to speak publicly, defend our identity and movement, and rally against anti-terror repression. Most importantly, in harsher times, it is our duty to stand together and fight against the state and capitalism, because these are the true enemies.

 

Are there sources or projects where people outside of Greece can find more information on cases of repression or political prisoners in Greece ?

The most significant and important project against repression here is the Solidarity Fund for Persecuted Fugitives and Imprisoned Comrades, and the solidarity assembly for Persecuted Fugitives and Imprisoned Comrades.

Also anti-authoritarian and anarchist radios and websites such Indymedia Athens, Radiofragmata, and Alerta.gr. There are many organizations, groups, and assemblies of the anti-authoritarian movement that support persecuted and imprisoned comrades all over Greece. It is a movement’s victory that solidarity for anarchist prisoners and prosecuted comrades have gained so much attention over the last years; nowadays thousands are supporting anarchists in solidarity marches, clashing with police, and conducting militant solidarity actions. As we say, practical solidarity wins!

 

Despite the escalation in repression since ND has come into power and the unprecedented lockdown, do you feel the overall anarchist movement in Greece remains intact and a permanent force to be reckoned with in Greek society?

I feel that we are going through a very hard time; a strange and significant new decade. Despite the shock of the first lockdown here in Greece, the anarchist movement fought, and still it fights back. Significant periods of harsh struggle- like the hunger strike of the revolutionary prisoner D. Koufontinas, the anti-repression struggles of the second lockdown, and the clashes in the Athen’s suburb of Nea Smirni.  Also the movement against patriarchy and rape culture which is fortunately gaining more and more space here in Greece, and of course the general fight against the state’s management of the pandemic.

My personal opinion is that the Anarchist movement, especially in Athens, is regaining its space and will become large in numbers, fighting at the “center of the storm” in the near future. The request now, is to create a movement in a revolutionary direction, which will put state and capitalists as political targets, and fight a total class and social struggle. The place is here, the time is now!

 

What are some of the ways the international community can show their solidarity to you and your comrades? 

Of course, the international revolutionary community knows the ways of struggle, so it’s up to groups and individuals to show their solidarity however they want to with other persecuted and imprisoned comrades and to the broader anarchist movement in Greece. The best thing that someone who wants to help can do is to keep up with the Tameio organization for the latest news of our struggles.

For our case, whoever wants can communicate to [email protected] regarding financial or political support.

REVOLUTIONARY SALUTES!

THE STRUGGLE AGAINST STATE AND CAPITALISM IS GLOBAL!

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Our goal is to extend the coverage of It's Going Down with content from outside North America, including reports, analysis and interviews. We aim to not only build awareness of anarchist struggle worldwide but to contextualize events for an international audience. We publish original contributions as well as syndicating and/or translating work from other websites and social media. Submissions are welcome! Email us at [email protected] We’re on twitter at @igdworldwide.

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