NEWS

Bill foresees jail for fare dodgers

Commuters caught traveling on public transport without a ticket will face up to three months in jail if a piece of draft legislation due to be tabled in Parliament on Thursday or Friday is voted into law.

The provision, to be submitted before lawmakers along with a raft of reforms streamlining the debt-ridden public transport sector, decrees that the refusal to travel without a validated ticket constitutes a misdemeanor. The offense will be punishable with a financial penalty, the size of which remained unclear, while offenders refusing to pay would face criminal charges and up to three months in jail.

The same bill would make the nonpayment of toll station charges a violation of the highway code, meaning that offenders would face the same penalties.

A spokesman for a committee representing residents of northeastern Attica who are systematically refusing to pay toll fees, in objection to recent increases in the charges, claimed that protesters were being ?persecuted for their political convictions.? ?Efforts are being made to criminalize the residents? struggle in the absence of any incriminating evidence,? Costas Papadakis told a press conference.

Early last week, the government had suggested 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 recently increased road tolls, as well as for train or bus tickets, whose price also went up on February 2. Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis caused political friction within the ruling party late last week after suggesting that authorities show some ?understanding? for the growing number of people who are refusing to pay road tolls or purchase public transport tickets in view of dwindling incomes.