Minister says he understands ‘Won’t pay’ protest

Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis suggested on Thursday that the government has to show some ?understanding? for the growing number of people who are refusing to pay road tolls or purchase public transport tickets in an apparent contradiction of previous statements by PASOK that it intends to clamp down on the protesters.

The government had suggested earlier this week that it would no longer tolerate the growing number of citizens? movements that have united under the ?I won?t pay? banner.

These include groups that are refusing to pay road tolls, which have recently been increased, as well as for train or bus tickets, whose price went up on Tuesday.

In a coordinated move, campaigners are planning to force open tollbooths across Greece on Monday. Yesterday, groups of protesters covered ticket machines at eight metro stations for about an hour.

However, Kastanidis appeared to distance himself from his colleagues? tough approach, suggesting this refusal to conform should be put in the wider context of the drastic changes to people?s daily lives resulting from the economic crisis.

?Laws must be enforced,? he said. ?But there has to be a balance between the strict enforcement of a court decision and social reality.?

?At this difficult juncture, there has to be understanding and we have to prioritize things,? he added, giving the example of the government ordering courts to be lenient on people who owe money.

Kastanidis went on to say that authorities should not adopt the same approach to everyone who refuses to pay, suggesting that more leniency should be shown toward pensioners, for example, than well-paid civil servants.

?The country is going through a deep crisis but if we approach this crisis with social pragmatism then Greeks will emerge stronger,? he said.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras criticized Kastanidis?s position, saying that those who did not follow laws were ?anti-social.?

?In a democracy, the law applies to everyone – conforming to legislation is not optional,? he said. ?This would not lead to more freedom but to the tyranny of lawlessness and the nightmare of different interpretations of justice.?

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