ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A doctor monitoring the health of an anarchist hunger striker jailed on terrorism charges said Wednesday the man is at the "final stage" of life and appealed to the government to secure his release.
Kostas Sakkas, 29, was arrested in 2010 but has been held in prison in pre-trial detention for longer than the 18-month limit allowed by the Greek Constitution. The case has triggering a heated dispute between the conservative government and left-wing opposition in a political atmosphere already poisoned by financial crisis.
Sakkas denies the charges, and supporters of a campaign to release him, including prominent politicians and academics, said Wednesday that they would start their own hunger strike next week unless he is released.
"I want to help to keep this boy alive. I consider this case shameful, a disgrace. I don't know how those who show indifference will sleep at night, if he doesn't make it," Ioanna Kondouli, a senior member of Green Party, said after pledging to join the solidarity hunger strike.
"I want to support this effort. Because if this life is not saved, we will not be able to look one another in the eye for a long time." Thanassis Karabellis, a member of a medical team appointed by Sakkas' family to monitor his health, warned that the young man could die at any moment.
"I am clear about what I am saying," said Karabellis. "Kostas Sakkas is in the final stage of a hunger strike." Sakkas began his protest on June 4 and is currently in a state hospital in Athens under police guard.
He is accused of being a member of the militant anarchist group Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire, or SPF, which has carried out multiple fire-bombings in Athens and Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki, as well as a 2010 parcel bombing campaign that targeted foreign embassies and the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The group is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. A panel of judges is due to meet Thursday to consider his release. Authorities have justified Sakkas' continued incarceration because separate terrorism-related charges were brought against him in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Greek Constitution, however, states that "it is prohibited to exceed these maximum limits of detention pending trial, by successively applying this measure to separate acts of the same case."
Human rights groups questioned the legality of the continued detention. "Keeping Sakkas in pretrial detention for over 18 months doesn't appear to comply with the obligation to try him within a reasonable amount of time," said Judith Sunderland, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Justice authorities should be looking into alternatives to detention, and move diligently to either bring Sakkas to trial or release him completely." The left-wing main opposition party in Greece, Syriza, this week urged the European Union to intervene for Sakkas' release, while the governing conservative New Democracy accused their opponents of "identifying with a terrorism suspect."