Inmates of Greece’s only prison hospital announced on Monday that they were on hunger strike and had refused medication to protest against severe overcrowding leading to the spread of disease.
Korydallos prison hospital is designed to hold 60 men but currently houses more than 200, most of whom are HIV positive.
Others have cancer, kidney failure and heart problems and are held in close quarters with those suffering from communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and scabies.
Inmates told reporters that 178 prisoners began refusing prison food and medication on February 16 after seeing two cases of tuberculosis among inmates who had not been isolated from other patients.
They said around 155 protesters began a full-blown hunger strike on Sunday, while those too severely ill to participate were eating only bread. The protesters were also refusing medication, including antiretroviral and cancer drugs.
The inmates said a Justice Ministry response under which certain ailing inmates would be released early was not enough and would only lead to the release of about 30 patients.
Protesters posted photos on social media showing inmates sleeping on double bunks packed tightly together and on mattresses on the floor.
One ailing man lay on a bunk, a drip in his arm fixed to a mop handle due to lack of equipment.
Prison guards’ union head Spiros Karakitsos said the prisoners had accurately depicted current conditions.
“It’s a shocking situation,” Mr Karakitsos said.
Council of Europe human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks tweeted that he was “worried at reports of degrading conditions of prisoners” at Korydallos hospital and said a quick resolution was necessary.
Chronically overcrowded Greek prisons have suffered an increase in inmate numbers and a dramatic decrease in staff and funding over the past few years, exacerbated by the country’s externally dictated austerity policies.
Korydallos hospital has seen a big increase in HIV positive inmates, who are held there even if not presently sick.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled several times that conditions in Greek prisons and police holding cells constitute inhuman or degrading punishment.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.