Been away from the blog, obviously, as work piled up. Had an interesting chat with Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Greek radical left party SYRIZA, for the New Statesman that’s been making the rounds, check it out here:
“Britain is already in depression. Nothing is getting better. More and more people in Europe realise that austerity is not a viable prospect. I hope people realise that there is no other way but to radicalise even further.” – New Statesman
Also, a follow up on my Skouries story for Vice UK, examining the crackdown on activists and the trespasses of the Greek police in its pursuit to serve capitalists who don’t give a shit about the natural environment their mining operations will destroy.
”They respect nothing any more, but they haven’t bothered me since because they’ve got nothing on me. We’ll be forced to leave or revolt, and they’ve already driven people to extremes. One of the miners, who’s deep in debt, showed up the other day and threatened to shoot us, but we disarmed him. If anyone gets killed, it won’t be long until the civil war starts, the way they’re pushing us.” – Vice
But it’s the case of the Sparta bomber that is the most worrying yet. On the 31st of August last year, a bomb blew up in the hands of a 38-year-old man in Sparta. His target remains unknown. The bomber’s accomplice, an as yet unidentified 34-year-old man, was arrested but released after testifying, despite the fact that 60 more bombs, shotguns and masks were found in his house by the police. Since then, no more information has been released and the Greek media have buried the story. – Vice
That’s all folks, I’ll be back next week with an enhanced version of the GD article and another on the EU I wrote for the Fabian Society’s Journal, once it’s out. Come along for the ride.
P.S Also, if you’ve have nothing better to do, I was on TV the other day
Talking about Greece and terrorism is one of the most trivial and taboo topics one can touch upon when going through the country’s recent history. It is not only the most recent wave of attacks or the infamous “17th of November” whose actions span three decades, but also the period after the Greek civil war (1946-49) which is mired with violence, terrorist attacks and murders of left-wing figureheads.
Each era bares its own characteristics, reasoning and victims. While the losing side of the ‘46 civil war was the one to be persecuted after its end, and terrorist actions during the 1967 Junta aimed both at resistance fighters and collaborators of the dictatorial regime, after the Junta’s fall in 1974 the newly established “17th of November” took the stage with a mission to punish those who collaborated with the dictators but weren’t “sufficiently punished” as their manifesto declared.
The organisation’s activity ended with their arrest in 2002. Sporadic attacks by newly surfaced groups took place throughout the last decade but their intensity and prominence, were nothing like what had transpired in the decades past. Even what we’ve been witnessing this January, this new wave of bombings and shootings, lacks both in ideological and circumstantial background, as it finds the country deeply divided and lagging in ideological clarity after five years of deep, morale shuttering recession. The big question for those of us following the situation closely is: Are we witnessing a revival that might see an escalation in violence in the coming months, or a government investing in what in the 70’s became known as the “strategy of tension”?
Siggrou avenue runs from the center of Athens and Syntagma, all the way down to where sea and land meet, in Falliro. Part of it standing near the Acropolis and the upper class Plaka area, the big artery running down to the city’s legs looks like its seen better days. Debatable as that might be, the street is home to many an important and historic buildings. Nine shots were fired on the 14th of January on Siggrou. Their target was none other than the building that houses the offices of New Democracy, main party of the coalition formed after the June elections and currently in government, since 2011. The shots were aimed at the party’s logo/sign in the face of the building. One of them was found lodged in PM’s Antonis Samaras office while the others in various places around their main target.
The incident stands as the highlight of two weeks in January when five bombs were placed outside houses and offices of journalists and politicians considered to be complicit in the government’s austerity policies and anti-left propaganda.
There’s nothing random about this, and as sources inside the governing parties themselves admit, nothing they didn’t expect. As the scandal over the now infamous Lagarde list and the various attempts by senior members of PASOK to hide it from the public eye were being investigated in the Parliament, a new tax-code that will place most Greeks under greater financial strain was to be voted in. With the heat rising, New Democracy decided to (in the words of a senior member of the government) show that “there is no money, but the state is present” and thus divert public opinion. Continue reading →
I’ve been away for a few days. Not like “far” away, just with very little time on my hands to actually sit down and produce words for this blog. Time in Greece is speeding up, things are happening at the same time, a sort of atrocity singularity. We’ve had yet another case of torture by the Greek police, attempts to silence journalists and dissident media and the torching of a mining work-site in North Greece. I shouldn’t go into much detail, especially as the articles are out there, so I’m just going to leave you with the links. There are more stories out there and tomorrow there’s more writing to be done. In the next few days, I will publish here a lengthy essay I wrote on the history of terrorism in Greece, relating to the recent incidents in January. For now, goodbye.
The abuse suffered by four young anarchists, arrested for a bank robbery, at the hands of the police proves it’s time to call Greece’s coalition government what it is – a far-right authoritarian group.
… if you have the right inside connections, then tax exemptions and access to European funding schemes present an opportunity to get into Greece, exploit its shitty financial situation and get out again significantly richer. While the news media feeds Greek families a jolly TV dinner of xenophobia, imminent financial meltdown and dog-eat-dog party politics, the real crimes – the ones ripping everyone off – take place in the background, in places like Skouries.
David Garland, ‘Birth of the Welfare Sanction’, British Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 8, No. 1. (Summer, 1981), pp. 29-45.
This was posted by James Butler, one half of Novara along with Aaron Peters, a radio show you should be listening to. Next week’s theme is “discipline, punishment, police violence, surveillance & prison economy” and it’s on Tuesday 2pm. It’s the only radio show I know that comes with a bibliography.
One of the symptoms of the Greek crisis is people who usually subscribe to the liberal-progressive dogma, calling out leftists, journalists and politicians on the use of populism and alarmist rhetoric. In many cases they’re right. But what we need to understand is that at this point, one can’t be an alarmist. Because someone really needs to sound the alarm.
It is one thing to make fun of claims that Greeks are sprayed by airplanes to keep them docile. And it’s a completely different thing to downplay reality. Why am I saying this?
Nikos Romanos, one of the four anarchists arrested after a failed bank robbery, labeled himself a “prisoner of war”. Many commentators loved this for different reasons. For some, it was the revolutionary denial, for others, the chance to laugh out loud at the “deluded” youth that thought taking up arms was the right course of action. Was that term a stretch? I wouldn’t know. But let me share with you a couple of pictures taken in the intensive care unit where one of the arrestees was being examined, and I’ll leave you to your own conclusions.
In case you’re wondering, these are members of the Greek police’s anti-terrorist squad (EKAM), fully armed inside a hospital, guarding all the doors. The pictures arrived with the following message and were initially published by Occupied London. The message was this:
- The place where these photos were taken is the emergency department/surgery of the Evagelismos hospital on February 3d, 2013, during the transfer of A. Bourzoukos. The department had no access to the exterior of the hospital, let alone the room where they took A.M. in order for him to be examined.
- As it is obvious from the photographs, the members of police’s anti-terrorist squad (EKAM) are inside the place, fully armed – a practice that is not allowed, as the medical staff kept whispering between them. When the surgery department’s head asked them to let him examine Bourzoukos without the presence of armed men, they refused to leave, since they would be violating their commanders’ orders. He then asked them to stay (which was already against the rules) within the surgery space, but outside the door of the room where he would be examining Bourzoukos, but they refused, once again. Why? There was no access to the room from the outside, unless one was to blow up the entire building – and it was equally impossible for Bourzoukos, say, to take the doctor hostage. Beaten across his entire face, “without a bone that wasn’t broken”, as they said, and with his hands cuffed behind his back.
- He was then examined and (the best part of it all) the men of the anti-terrorist unit then asked for the names of the doctors, which were not handed to them, of course.
- Could it be that medical privacy has been abolished? Perhaps along with university asylum, which was hiding such a “dangerous” criminal inside the campus of Mytilini [trans. where Bourzoukos was studying]?
I’ve only seen this happening in war-zones and countries suffering from famine because of conflict. Let’s sit back for a minute, remind ourselves that this is supposed to be Europe and that officials are trying to convince us that things are getting better.
For those of you who haven’t been following the story, last week a man self-identified as the Greek oil-magnate Dimitris Melissanidis of Aegean Oil called from a number registered with the company and from a building the company uses, to threaten the life of journalist Lefteris Charalampopoulos after the publishing of a report that implicates the company in an oil smuggling scandal. Check here for the Greek and here for the English full text on the case.
Death threats are not uncommon against investigative reporters and it was only two years that Socratis Giolias was murdered outside his house for reason as of yet unknown. So although it’s common practise, it should never be taken lightly. This story picks my interest for an additional reason though. In their own words:
…On February 4th- UNFOLLOW magazine received a phone call and then an email from Failos Kranidiotis, attorney for Mr Melissanidis. In his email, which UNFOLLOW published on its website today, he states:
“As ordered by my client, Mr Dimitris Melissanidis, I declare the following:
After the severely defamatory article published in your issue of February 2013, you also published on your magazine’s website, on Saturday February 2nd 2013, at 22.15, an article titled ‘Threats against UNFOLLOW from man self-identified as D. Mellissanidis’.
Mr D. Melissanidis declares to you that he has never contacted any of your reporters or any of your collaborators.
You are required to publish his response on your website and to delete the offensive and defamatory comments that follow your post.
Beyond that, he reserves all legal rights.
Failos M. Kranidiotis
What is really interesting is that “mister” Kranidiotis, is none other than the man with which I had a very “pleasant” exchange on twitter the other night and whose statements from that conversation made it in the article I wrote for the New Statesman today. This is the same man who is an advisor to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. And here is an interesting side to this story: Mellisanidis is a bidder for the purchase of OPAP (state lottery) which is a monopoly in Greece and a highly profitable one if I may add.
So let’s recap: The government is privatising assets, one of the richest men in Greece is bidding for a highly profitable public company, and his lawyer is an advisor to the Prime Minister. No conflict of interest here at all…
Let’s not kid ourselves, this is probably the next scandal coming out of Greece along with the oil smuggling case mentioned below. And it’s going to be a tough one to crack as we’re talking about two (Mellisanidis & Latsis) of the richest people not just in Greece, but in the world. UNFOLLOW puts it better:
On January 31st, the latest -14th- issue of UNFOLLOW magazine hit the newsstands all over Greece. Among other reports, we published one on oil smuggling in Greece – specifically the practice of oil carrier companies to buy oil at reduced-tax rates and channel it back into the market at the normal price.
We also published two reports by the 7th Piraeus Customs Authority, with detailed findings on how two major oil companies engaged in this practice. One is ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), where the principal shareholders are the Greek state and Spiros Latsis. The other is Aegean Oil, which is run by Dimitris Melissanidis – albeit without an official position, though his brother, Iakovos, holds a post on the board. Finally, in our report we pointed out that although Aegean Oil officials have been charged with smuggling and forgery, their trial has been postponed four times already, while the state attorneys were absent on all four occasions.
Aegean Oil is truly colossal. Among other things, it supplies the American navy, and one of its associated companies trades in the New York stock exchange. A new trial regarding the smuggling and forgery charges is set for February 12th. Media attention in Greece has been, unsurprisingly, non-existent.
ELPE is set to be fully privatized soon, according to the privatization program imposed on Greece by the troika. The front-runner to acquire state owned shares is Spiros Latsis. At the same time, Dimitris Melissanidis is poised to buy the also soon to be privatized OPAP, the state company that holds a monopoly on gambling.
Now we’re all waiting for mr.Kranidiotis to prove who it was who called under his clients nose, while also finding evidence to back some other claims he made on an unrelated case. The mainstream Greek media have yet to pick up on this story, for some we know the reasons, for others… Not really. I expected more mobilisation from journalists. There is now a great divide between those working inside and those working outside the mainstream (TV & Radio mainly). This will not play out well in these times when society is divided to a fault and the government cherishes the fact.
As the power structures that run Greece for the past decades now unfold, we will see more incidents like this one. And we need journalists to feel safe enough as to investigate and publish their findings, if we’re ever going to get out of this mess. Now go out and share this please.