Civic rights

The ruling by Supreme Court Prosecutor Dimitris Linos demanding an inquiry over the conditions of arrest and detention of the seven anti-globalization demonstrators who have been jailed pending trial, touched a very crucial aspect of our democratic system. The political background of the accused is of no importance whatsoever. What is crucial, rather, is that the very essence of democracy is based on the recognition of individual freedoms and legal rights for all – their critics included. It is based on the principle of legality and the rule of law – without any concessions. And, finally, it is pervaded by an inherent skepticism over bestowing too much power on the police authorities – a concern which is prompted by the knowledge that overconcentration of power breeds authoritarianism. All these have been traditionally regarded as the foundations of liberal democracy, as its core and criterion of classification. They are the reason that we fought against the totalitarian practices of Socialist regimes; they are the premises of open societies in the West. Because of the significance of these premises, Lianos’s intervention must prompt an in-depth investigation into the case of the six inmates. Why has their trial been delayed? Was their remand ordered in line with the last-resort principle? And, most crucially, has there been a full investigation as to whether the police planted evidence to frame the protesters, a charge which seems valid in the case of Simon Chapman? We should not disregard this as a small offense or as a sign of police zeal. Instead, we must conduct a comprehensive investigation in order to track down anyone involved. This cannot be the work of a low-ranking police officer. If the charge is verified, the perpetrators must be ejected from the police body and be prosecuted. Demands of the time do not legitimize the transformation of policemen into despots nor overreaction and the undermining of legality. Three people who had been arrested for violent episodes during the Polytechnic anniversary were released yesterday. How will the Greek State react if Chapman and the other protesters are found innocent? How will it respond should it turn out that the evidence against them was fabricated? Individual liberties and civic rights are not a detail or secondary provisions that can be ignored at the State’s will. In a country where democracy has experienced decades of difficulty, this should be obvious to every state functionary. The badge of democracy is not awarded by arresting terrorists but by showing deep respect for the rights of the suspects.