Support for Greek hunger striking student Nikos Romanos
For the right to education, dignity, hope, and life
Just a few days short of the anniversary of the death of 15-year old Alexis Grigoropoulos, assassinated by a police officer in Athens in December 2008, a witness to the killing, Alexis' close friend Nikos Romanos, is facing the possibility that he will die on hunger strike in prison.
Nikos Romanos, now aged 20, was sentenced to prison for his part in a bank robbery in early 2013. While in prison he has both completed his high school education and studied for and undertaken the Greek university entrance exams, earning high enough marks to gain a place at a university in Athens. Along with other successful prisoners he even received a reward from the President of the Republic.
While the other successful prisoners were able to take up their university places, the Prison Board and the Public Prosecutor have cruelly and unfairly decided to deprive Nikos Romanos of the opportunity to do so. Such a decision not only deprives Nikos of hope and life, now in his 24th day of a hunger strike, it is also a symbolic insult to every young person whether they have committed a crime or not, and to youth itself and all its passion and mistakes.
The role of the State and of the penitentiary system should be to open roads, to provide opportunities to learn and to evolve; the role of the State and society should not be to punish and to crush those convicted and imprisoned.
This decision to deny Nikos the right to take up his place at university serves no humane or corrective purpose, does not respect the rule of law, and breaks with values and traditions defended since the European Enlightenment.
Finally, this action is a painful depreciation of education itself, the ultimate goal of which is social education, support, and development of citizens. This is precisely why education is a right which must be accessible to all without any discrimination.
We, elected local, national, and European parliamentarians, and we, teachers at all levels of education, consider it a shame on Greek and European society that the right to education be denied. Nikos Romanos should have every possibility, as should all the other prisoners, to study and he has the right, undeniable to all human beings, to live in dignity, even when in prison.
We publicly call on all institutional and political actors, above all the Greek government, the Greek Ministers of Justice and Education, the President of the Republic, European Commissioner responsible for Fundamental Rights, Frans Timmermans, Civil Liberties Commissioner Dimitrios Avramopoulos and Education Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, to assume their responsibilities and take all possible action to redress this blatant violation of fundamental rights, before it is too late.
Glezos Emmanouil, Chrysogonos Kostas, Spinelli Barbara, Katrougalos George, Iglesias Pablo, Gabi Zimmer, Maltese Curzio, Forenza Eleonora, Sylikiotis Neoklis, López Paloma, Couso Javier, Albiol Guzmán Marina, Scholz Helmut, Sanchez Caldentey Lola, Michels Martina, De Masi Fabio, Papadimoulis Dimitris, Vallina de la Noval Ángela, Ernst Cornelia, Matias Marisa, Kyllönen Merja, Stefan Eck, Lösing Sabine, Konečná Kateřina, Kuneva Kostadinka, Vergiat Marie-Christine, Echenique Robba Pablo, Björk Malin, Juaristi Abaunz Iosu, Gonzalez Peña Tania, Adinolfi Isabella, Urtasun Ernest