Government split over convict’s demand for study furlough

As 21-year-old anarchist and convicted bank robber Nikos Romanos entered the 21st day of a hunger strike on Monday, protesting the authorities’ refusal to grant him furlough to study at a technical college, the government appeared uncertain how to react.

Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou said there were laws allowing convicts to acquire study leave, noting however that approval was the responsibility of the parole board in question, not the Justice Ministry.

Education Minister Andreas Loverdos meanwhile said he favored the idea of convicts being allowed to study, adding that the final decision should be taken by Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias based on security criteria.

Responding, Athanasiou said Loverdos could facilitate distance learning for convicts wanting to study.

Iraklis Kostaris, a convicted member of November 17, is also on hunger strike over a decision by prison authorities to curb furloughs during which he had been studying. Kostaris, 47, and Romanos are both said to be in a fragile condition.

PASOK, SYRIZA and Democratic Left expressed support for Romanos and other prisoners to be allowed to study.