Campaign of resistance forces government to act

The government promised on Wednesday to clamp down on the so-called ?I won?t pay? campaign, which has seen a growing number of citizens refusing to pay for public transport tickets, road tolls, utility bills and hospital charges.

The pledge, which was made by Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas in Parliament, came as a nationwide movement of campaigners protesting rises in toll charges held a news conference to reveal that they would coordinate their action on Monday to force open tollbooths around the country and allow drivers to pass through for free.

The campaigners said they were holding the action to mark the first charges brought by prosecutors against members of their movement, which has been active for the last 15 months. ?The freedom of movement is a inalienable human right,? said group member Giorgos Kosmopoulos.

Nine people from northeastern Attica have been charged with organizing protest at tollbooths and refusing to pay tolls.

Another member, Vassilis Papadopoulos, said the group protesting toll charges was now coordinating its action with a movement against the 5-euro fee being introduced by the government for anyone who goes for treatment at a public hospital.

Papadopoulos said that the legal action being taken against campaigners was ?an effort by the government and private companies to terrorize citizens.?

?They are afraid that this movement will become something bigger,? he added.

The movement urging public transport passengers not to pay their fare has been spurred on by the steep rise in charges that came into effect on Tuesday. Reppas has referred to people who support this campaign as ?freeloaders? and indicated yesterday that checks by inspectors would be stepped up.

The government is concerned that the refusal to pay for tolls and tickets could soon become a refusal to pay taxes and would create a general sense of lawlessness, which is why it seems determined that any offenders be prosecuted.

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