Jailed Greek anarchist calls off hunger strike

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 10, 2014 10:29 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) - A self-proclaimed Greek anarchist has called off a hunger strike after being allowed to attend university classes with a tracking bracelet, his lawyer said on Wednesday, defusing tensions that had sparked protests across Greece.

The end of the hunger strike is a relief for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who is keen to avoid stoking further street protests while he battles to win a vote in parliament this month on a new president and avoid an early parliamentary election.

Student Nikos Romanos, 21, was sentenced to prison in October for robbery. He had refused food for a month and was in critical condition after demanding the right to attend classes in person.

On Wednesday, Romanos had also decided to give up drinking liquids, just before parliament passed new legislation that will allow prisoners to attend classes with an electronic bracelet after a semester of distance learning.

"It's not the right time to celebrate. Democracy and legitimacy won. This kid fought for his life, it was a very painful and difficult battle," his lawyer Fragiskos Ragkousis said. "What is important is that a human life was saved."

Violent clashes broke out last Saturday when thousands of protesters marched in Athens to commemorate the police killing of a teenager six years ago which triggered Greece's worst riots in decades and helped topple the then-conservative government. This year's protest was in solidarity with Romanos, who had witnessed the 2008 killing.

Samaras faces a difficult vote in parliament this month for a new head of state. Failure to persuade lawmakers to back his choice would trigger an early parliamentary election in the austerity-ravaged country that could sweep to power the leftist Syriza party, which rejects Greece's bailout program.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Gareth Jones)