Police lockups full of convicts

As Thessaloniki’s main jail at Diavata becomes increasingly overcrowded, police stations in the region are being used to accommodate detainees, with some having reportedly remained in police cells for over three months, Kathimerini has learned. More than 70 people, chiefly defendants who have been detained pending trial, are currently squeezed into the two main police stations in the northern city, sources say. Some of the detainees are said to have been on hunger strike since last week in protest against their conditions. Police reportedly agreed to accommodate the detainees in the stations as a temporary measure a few weeks ago after it emerged that the inmate population at Diavata jail, which was built to hold 370 prisoners, had exceeded 600. The overcrowding at Diavata has resulted in up to 10 inmates per cell, as opposed to the usual four. In the Thessaloniki police lockups, conditions are reportedly similarly cramped and the facilities are also inadequate. «A large number of detainees are being held in inappropriate spaces for long periods of time,» Manolis Lamtzidis, president of the Thessaloniki Bar Association, told Kathimerini. According to Lamtzidis, the maximum period a detainee should be held at a police station is five days. He said the association has been flooded with complaints from detainees’ lawyers, chiefly regarding health issues, as access to a toilet, for example, requires permission. One of the lawyers, Ersi Fotopoulou, painted a grim picture of detainees’ daily lives at the police stations. «They can hardly move and they get no exercise,» she said. According to Costas Tsitselikis, professor of human rights at the University of Macedonia, the conditions are a violation of European Union legislation governing the rights of detainees. Lamtzidis, the bar association president, said a key problem was that the number of arrests had risen and offset the early releases from prison heralded by the government at the end of last year in a bid to ease overcrowding. According to the Council of Europe, Greece has one of the EU’s longest average periods for pretrial detention, which boosts overcrowding in jails.