Authorities to go easy on addicts in rehab

Drug addicts or prisoners who take part in rehabilitation programs will benefit from a range of measures that include having their sentences or jail sentences suspended, according to new legislation being prepared by the government.

Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou revealed last week that the government is preparing a bill that would decriminalize drug use, but in an interview with Sunday?s Kathimerini he said drug addicts who are arrested or people serving prison time for drug-related offenses would also be given incentives to join rehabilitation schemes.

?It is clear from all scientific studies that addicts have an illness and they should be treated as such,? said Papaioannou. ?Their place is in a rehabilitation program, not in prison.?

The proposals include authorities temporarily suspending arrest warrants, prosecutions, trials and prison sentences for addicts. Prisoners could also be released from jail if they join the programs.

For those who complete the schemes and are deemed to have kicked the habit, authorities will drop all charges and permanently suspend any sentences they were carrying out.

?The proposed measures carry a dual message: for young people to stay away from drugs and that those who find themselves caught up in the cogs of addiction will not be treated as criminals,? Papaioannou told Sunday?s Kathimerini.

The minister is also set to table a bill giving authorities the power to obtain the identity of bloggers and other Internet users suspected of offenses. This has prompted fears that bloggers will have to give up their anonymity but Papaioannou said this would only happen ?under certain conditions.? A panel of experts has been set up to put forward suggestions on the issue before the draft law is composed.