Communist guerilla enters 46th day of hunger strike in Greek prison

Shea Stewart, is a member of the YCL’s London branch

For the last 46 days political prisoner Dimitris Koufontinas has been on hunger strike from his prison cell in Greece.

Koufontinas – serving multiple life sentences for his involvement in the communist urban guerilla force 17N – says he is being unfairly targeted in politically motivated actions by the right wing Greek government, elected in 2019.

In 2018, while Greek parliament was controlled by a SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left – Progressive Alliance) majority, Koufontinas was granted multiple 48 hour furloughs from prison. He ultimately won a transfer from the infamous Korydallos prison – of which Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern over treatment of prisoners – to an agricultural prison labour facility.

These acts of leniency were harshly criticised by the United States and Britain. Before its dissolution in 2002, 17N had often targeted the agents of imperialism in Greece for assasinations and bombings, including the 1975 assassination of the C.I.A. station chief in Athens. 

In 2018 British ambassador to Greece, Kate Smith, attacked Koufontinas on twitter – “It is extremely disheartening to see an unrepentant convicted terrorist get out of jail like this. We respect the independence of Greek justice, but once again the memory of victims of terrorism and the feelings of their families are cruelly violated.”

With 2019’s electoral failure of SYRIZA and the formation of a right wing government in the Hellenic parliament, the clemency shown to Koufontinas has dried up. 

A new law passed by the New Democracy government last year banned any person who has received multiple life sentences from serving their time in an agricultural facility – the type of prison that Koufontinas has been serving his sentence in for over two years.

Koufontinas was subsequently moved – in a targeted attack by the Secretary of Crime Sofia Nikolaouto – to an isolated wing of the maximum security Domokos prison, described by many as a ‘prison within a prison’. This move has been attacked by the revolutionary movement in Greece for being without any precedent in Greek law. 

Members of November 17 Savvas Xiros, left, Dimitris Koufontinas, center, Christodoulos Xiros and Vassilis Xiros, left rear, during a break in their 2003 Athens trial

In retaliation Koufontinas chose to begin a hunger strike –  outlining the reason for his decision in the following statement, released 8/1/21.

“This is a complete humiliation of the same rule of law of which the state likes to speak of.

This is not just a method of exterminating a political prisoner by an increasingly far right government. It is an attempt to overthrow a person, not for what he is – but for what he signals. 

After all the blatantly cynical actions in the war against me, hunger striking is now a matter of personal consistency and individual dignity.

The state must at least apply its own provocatively engineered law – and put me back in the basement of Korydallos where I spent 16 of my 18 years in prison, the special wing built by the minister of repression, M. Chrysochoidis, to bury the 17N.”

On the 16th of February Koufontinas’ condition deteriorated to the point of his hospitalisation – he is now in intensive care, where he will be tortured with force feeding. 

The Greek revolutionary movement has exploded with solidarity for Koufontinas. Police buildings have been petrol bombed in Athens and government targets have had their homes attacked with incendiary devices. Thousands of people have attended protests and solidarity marches throughout Greece to call for the fair treatment of Koufontinas and all other political prisoners who are jailed for revolutionary activity. 

Like Bobby Sands and Helin Bölek before him, Dimitris Koufontinas has decided to use the last remaining tactic of struggle available to an imprisoned revolutionary, using his final point of leverage against the state – his life. Despite popular outcry the Greek state has not reneged on any of its life threatening acts of repression, and only time will tell whether they callously murder another political prisoner inside their jails.

Shea Stewart

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