NEWS

Thessaloniki 7 released

A council of Thessaloniki judges yesterday ordered the release of seven young men jailed pending trial on charges of rioting during an anti-EU protest in June, bringing an end to a long hunger strike by five of them. The case had embarrassed the Socialist government, prompted firebombings and the occupation of university buildings by supporters of the seven, criticism from European Parliament members and Amnesty International, and strident media campaigns in Greece. Earlier yesterday, a prosecutor ordered doctors to force-feed the five if they appeared to be in danger. The doctors, backed by their union, refused. The three-member Magistrates' Council of Thessaloniki, where the seven were among 29 protesters arrested on June 21, ordered their release on condition that they remain in Greece. Briton Simon Chapman, 30, and Syrian Suleiman Dakduk, 34, were soon transferred from Korydallos Prison infirmary to a hospital. Dakduk had been on hunger strike since late September and Chapman since early October. Spaniards Carlos Martin Martinez, 25, and Fernando Perez Gorraiz, 22, were already in the nearby Nikaia State Hospital, along with Spyros Tsitsas of Greece. They were all reported to have had tea and noodle soup yesterday afternoon. The other two prisoners are Greek minors who were held in Avlona juvenile prison. All seven have been ordered to stand trial for rioting in Thessaloniki. It is not clear when the trial will be held. «Immediately after hearing the news (of the release), the families of the two Spanish protesters visited them. But special care must be taken with feeding the hunger strikers over the next five to seven days because their bodies must recover gradually,» psychiatrist Cleanthes Grivas, who treated the men, told Kathimerini. Government spokesman Christos Protopapas expressed the government's «satisfaction.» Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said, «Greece's justice system took a responsible and unbiased decision - as it has always done.» Supporters of the «Seven» staged a protest rally with motorcycles, taunting police outside Korydallos Prison with the chant, «We're with the Seven and you with the Z-squad guy,» referring to a motorcycle squad officer killed earlier this month in a high-speed chase. It was not clear if protesters would end all occupations of university buildings.

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