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A very reluctant yes to Romanos, with conditions

A very reluctant yes to Romanos, with conditions

The Justice Ministry has tabled an amendment in parliament that would allow imprisoned students to leave prison fitted with electronic bracelets - under conditions.

Pavlos Zafiropoulos

An amendment has been tabled in parliament by the Justice Ministry as an effort to provide a solution to the Nikos Romanos case.

The solution to the problem seems quite simple: to allow Romanos to attend university with an electronic bracelet to allay fears that he poses a flight risk. Romanos through his lawyer has stated that he would accept this and end his hunger strike.

Yet the Justice Minister, Charalambos Athanasiou, has resisted this simple way out of the problem at every turn, insisting that the only thing the state could do would be to offer inmates such as Romanos the opportunity to complete distance learning courses behind bars – something that Romanos has vehemently rejected.

The Justice Minister has remained adamant, despite the fact that the bracelet solution is seemingly far more feasible that distance learning. Greek prisons are so chronically overcrowded and underfunded that it’s difficult to see how the Ministry intends to provide prisoners even with acceptable spaces to study, let alone computers, reliable internet access and all of the other materials they would require.

During a debate in parliament last night, Athanasiou initially rejected proposals submitted by SYRIZA and DIMAR that would allow Romanos and other inmates to leave prison to attend university provided they were fitted with electronic bracelets to monitor their movements. This despite the fact that the proposal was supported by every other party in parliament aside from the neo-fascist Golden Dawn.

Only after the junior coalition partner PASOK intervened and resubmitted a similar proposal did Athanasiou back down and state that the Justice Minister would examine the proposed amendment.

Now the Ministry has tabled its amendment in parliament. It provides for inmate students to be included in an electronic bracelet scheme but only on the basis that they first complete the first six months of their courses by distance learning.

On first appraisal it is difficult to understand why the six month condition has been attached – other than perhaps out of a petty and vindictive desire on the part of the Minister of Justice to not have appeared to have backed down in the face of the hunger striking Romanos.

It is unclear whether the amendment will be accepted by Romanos. This morning, in light of the parliamentary vote (before the text of the amendment was made available) it was reported from the hospital where Romanos is being treated that he was moving ahead with a thirst strike.

While it is hoped that the law change, if passed, will be enough to convince Romanos to suspend his strike, the Justice Ministry has rendered that less likely than seems necessary.

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