Report about the recent trials against the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire by Christos Tsakalos (Greece)
Chronicle of the trials (“250 actions” case, escape plan case)
Conspiracy of Cells of Fire – Christos Tsakalos
- i) Posthumous sentences
When something comes to an end, we are usually concerned only about the overall review.
We calculate the profit and the damage.
We hardly ever turn back time to reflect on the course that led to the final outcome. And even more rarely do we look ahead to stare at the new horizon that rises, when today becomes yesterday…
The two trials against the CCF ended 2 weeks ago. The one, regarding the 250 actions of the organization, lasted 3 years more or less while the other, regarding the escape attempt, lasted 5 dramatic months in a continuous climate of tension with the presiding judge.
Each one of us, who claimed political responsibility for the CCF and defended the organization and its actions, was sentenced to 21-28 years in prison for the first case and 115 years for the second one…
The first conclusion is that the judges believe in life after death, since one lifetime is not enough for these sentences to be served.
The second conclusion is that the choice of urban guerilla and the armed revolutionary action are still a threat to authority…
- ii) The scenery of the show.
But let us first see the way that the scenery of this show unfolded. Normally, i don’t like the victimization logic as it comes along with the narration of exaggerations which only maintains phobic myths. If we want to overcome fear, we must not amplify it but stare it right in the face… Dramatization of facts may make narration more exciting, but it keeps truth at a distance.
The court regarding the 250 actions case of the R.O. CCF (the exact number is actually 148 actions, although the case became known as the “250 actions” case) was characterized by a relatively mild and modest attitude that the judges adopted towards us.
During the proceedings, the composition of the Tribunal demonstrated a velvety laxity regarding the technical aspects (arrival time, suspension of the trial when it coincided with G.D.’s trial etc.)
Obviously, this was the result of our own attitude during the trial. When we made clear, since the beginning, that we claim responsibility for the CCF and that we ignore the penal forfeit, basically we deactivated their main bogeyman.
We invalidated their benefit of intimidation through punishment by penalties. Embarrassed, they often found themselves out of their depth.
At the same time, the political statements, positioning and the questions to the witnesses that pointed out the political motivations of our actions, from the way we see it, confirmed the fact that it was indeed a political trial that judges however did not recognize as such from the very beginning.
iii) Political symbolism and penal exemplification.
Every trial of anarchist armed organizations comes along with symbolism and exemplification.
A political symbolism, as the case is depoliticized and presented as a clear penal evaluation of facts. And a penal exemplification, since the long prison sentences seek to frighten new comrades and prevent them from choosing urban guerilla.
It is up to us to invert this political symbolism so that it backfires on the moral instigators.
Although at the beginning of the “250 actions” trial the judges denied its political character, eventually in the course of the trial the presiding judge frequently mentioned that “here, we are not dealing with “common penal offences’ ” defendants”, while the prosecutor retraced the history of the French revolution and talked about the phenomenon of armed groups of revolutionary violence.
So we have managed to turn the courtroom into a field of political confrontation.
A part of the world of anarchy and revolution on one side, and the judges, representatives of law and order, on the other.
Some might wonder if we are interested in judges’ opinion. Obviously we don’t, however earning the recognition of your political identity, the fear, and in some cases even the respect of your worst enemy, is a small victory…
Authority, fiercely, does not recognize the concept of political prisoner, because then they would be forced to recognize the very existence of the anarchist revolutionary battle.
During these trials the judges, the most sclerotic part of authority, not only recognized that the battle against authority is real but also accepted that all political prisoners are prisoners of war…
- iv) A trial… without a case.
But the judges have had some more difficulty with this trial… They did not have a case…
They had to deal with 18 defendants, 680 witnesses, 148 actions and no evidence at all…
Half of the defendants declared themselves to be anarchists but have denied being part of the R.O. CCF while the other half, as urban guerilla anarchists, defended the organization and its actions but we, obviously, did not give ANY evidence to the enemy regarding places or personal participation in these actions.
I am pointing this out, because often enough, there has been some confusion.
“Claiming responsibility” for being part of an anarchist organization means defending its political character and all of its actions, HOWEVER it does not mean, in any case, revealing the places that one has been or the things that one has done. Such a thing would make it easier for authorities to understand the modus operandi of an organization. On the contrary, we defend the conspiratorial characteristics of the group and that is the reason why we say nothing to the investigating magistrate and we do not apologize. So we don’t speak with the enemy, he can find the evidence for our conviction on his own…
- v) The time machine… of the indictment
In this case, there was no evidence (finger prints, DNA, identifications, nothing at all – with the exception of one of the 148 actions which, however, could not insure the remaining 147!!!) Nor could it be invented…
However, when reality does not suit authority…the worse it will get for reality…
On March 2011, after an EKAM’s (Special Counter-Terrorist Unit) raid on a lair at Volos, the first wave of arrests of the R.O. CCF comes to an end. After a few months, we collectively publish the brochure “The Sun Still Rises”. A brochure that consists of two parts. The first one contains a political text signed by us, concerning the legacy but also the prospect of the continuance of the organization. The second one contains a full chronology of CCF actions from January 2008 to 2011, drawn up, edited and signed by the “Comrades in solidarity with the CCF”.
This brochure became the counter-terrorism’s cover note on which the “250 actions” case was based.
All of us together, the 9 comrades of the CCF (Theofilos Mavropoulos is part of the organization from 2012 onwards…), were sentenced to a total of 300 years in prison.
While reading the court verdict, the presiding judge mentioned: “There is no evidence for anyone of the defendants that proves their physical participation in these actions. However, the defendants that signed “The Sun Still Rises…” provided, through their text, psychological assistance to the unknown perpetrators that committed all the actions of the organization”…
So we were found guilty of complicity with other unknown perpetrators of causing explosions and the supply, fabrication, possession of explosives, repeatedly.
Even if we overlook the fact that democracy convicts on the basis of political texts, we still find ourselves in front of new cliffs of logic…
How can a text provide psychological assistance in actions that preceded the text???
Even if we accept judges’ rationale, how can a text, released in 2011, mentally encourage actions that took place in 2008!!
That could happen only through a time machine…
- vi) “And for everything i forgot…guilty” (words of the prosecutor during his speech in the first trial of 17N.)
But let’s not miss the point…
Obviously, every action of the organization was our own. Not in the sense of ownership but in the sense of participation. It was our own heartbeat, our own anticipation, the endless time of planning, the alternative routes, the practice, the tracking of the targets, the last configuration details of the explosive device and the incredible joy that overwhelmed us at the sound of the explosion that disrupted social graveyard’s deep sleep, every time we fled. The most important thing was that the choice of urban guerilla was and remains our own way of moving faster towards the anarchist revolution here and now. We must convey the message that authority is not indestructible and that we can create a life of freedom.
There are no instigators or perpetrators. There are urban guerilla anarchists and their actions. And that’s who we are.
However, we must not neglect to point out the intoxicating arrogance of the court’s rulings. We may not be interested in the penal forfeit of the conviction by the enemy’s court and that is why we are not even considering mitigating factors, but we are interested in understanding our opponent’s strategy.
Because when you uncover their ugliness and their hypocrisy, you also reveal their vulnerabilities.
This trial was a trial of technique.
The “250 actions” case file interposed so that it could put comrades on trial and block the 18-month detention limit. (of all the members of CCF, Gerasimos Tsakalos, Giorgos Polydoros, Olga Oikonomidou and Theofilos Mavropoulos would have been released)
That was the main penal aspect of the trial. Eventually, the sentences imposed were added to those already existing, composing a penal delirium since two lifetimes are not enough for those sentences to be served.
At the same time, an additional political symbolism was created. A message was sent.
Those who claim political responsibility and defend their organization inside courtrooms will be constantly sentenced, with or without evidence…
Nowadays, the wise thing would be to choose the easy road. We could camouflage ourselves with hard words of general rhetoric and at the same time abstain from the organization’s actions. It would be a lie if we said that we don’t care about prison. Bars and isolation is bad for everyone. But betraying yourself is worse…
Some might say that using lies against the enemy is legitimate.
But if we played “innocent”, we wouldn’t lie only to the enemy. Or just to ourselves. We would also lie to all those unknown or familiar comrades that we are calling on to be part of the armed struggle and fight for their freedom. How could we say to these comrades that it’s worth fighting for even if the road is rutty, solitary most of the time, with prison and death lurking, if we ourselves betrayed our history…
Because memory is the toughest judge… and forgets no one…
On the contrary, the contempt for the judges, the smiling back at captivity, the comradeship against loneliness and the ferrous tenacity for the continuance of the struggle is the narration of our own life… our own political symbolism…
WE ARE and we will remain enemies of every authority…
What was said, remains valid…
We will meet where the struggle continues…
Christos Tsakalos, Member of the CCF/FAI-IRF – Urban Guerilla Cell
Chronicle of the trial against the C.C.F.’s escape plan – Christos Tsakalos
i) Everything is a matter of aesthetics
I would like to start in a way that might seem unorthodox. They say everything is political. I consider the aspect of aesthetics to have explicit political extensions. The aesthetics and body language of the judges during the trial for the escape plan were indicative of this. From the very first moment the presiding judge looked as if someone had spat against the wind next to her, the appellate judge had a permanently cold and unexpressed face of German discipline, while the deputy judge slept the entire time with his head resting on top of a chubby double-chin, with the danger of falling-off his chair at any time.
This trial has claimed many forms of originality. First and foremost the word »military court» was not done any justice due to its common use during previous political trials and nobody could accurately describe the magnitude of fascism of this particular trial.
The judge made her intentions clear since the beginning. Despite the lawyers’ strike, the judge demanded to go on with the trial as usual. She also dismissed our lawyers and assigned new ones thinking they would follow her orders. It took the intervention of the Bar Association, following an appeal from us, for the judge to repeal her decision in order to avoid negative press.
During previous trials, the judges had more or less maintained a ‘decent behavior’ that could be considered appropriate for a »political opponent». This specific judge was ….faulty… Her expression, attitude and obvious lack of culture resembled more of a media-cannibalized LAOS (far-right) voter who swears and shouts racial slurs at the sight of immigrants in the bus, than a presiding judge at an appellate court. She had not even adopted the very basic strategy of keeping up pretenses. Her phrases »we will be booed on TV if the trial exceeds the 18-month detention limit», »you won’t be laughing afterwards», »you ‘ll see what happens to you», »talk like this to your girlfriend» reflect some moments of the trial…
So, it becomes perfectly clear that court verdicts might comply with the centers of authority (for example the cases of Vgenopoulos, Bobolas, Marinakis, Siemens, NOOR 1, etc) BUT also acquire the distinct tensions of the personal temperament of each judge. This validates the assumption that the judicial authority is equipped with an enormous power which was passed through from the practice of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages.
The arrogance of the judges and the power they enjoy like minor Gods sat on their throne-like benches must become a concern for the strategy of the anarchist urban guerilla.
ii) Conditions of psychological captivity
Returning to the trial for the escape plan
We believe that the basic political plan was organized in the interrogation room of the appeals investigator of the anti-terrorism police E. Nikolopoulos. The court just had to validate what had already been decided through a ruling. The message was clear: Fear must reign.
At the beginning the police attempted to implement the tactic of division. On the same day the escape plan was revealed, my brother Gerasimos Tsakalos and I were urgently transferred to the basement of the special wing of the prison, at midnight. In this way they tried to divide the organization. Next, we were attacked with the use of a communicational fog shaped by lies and imaginary story lines.
For four months, newspaper headlines and dedicated news sections on TV constructed stories of our hegemony in prison, spoke of »interconnected vessels» of terrorists and members of the organized crime and denounced »parties thrown by terrorists in prison», based on some letters they found. At the same time they spread terror with references about »a bloodshed avoided in the last minute» and »carnage prepared by the C.C.F.».
So, they obscured what was truly meaningful: our desire to regain our freedom and continue the struggle.
On March 2015 their cauldron of lies was overflown… the anti-terrorism police arrested our comrade Angeliki Spyropoulou and at the same time detained my mother and my brother’s wife, while the brother of the member of the C.C.F., George Polydoros, was prosecuted.
A thoroughly orchestrated attack from police and judicial grades aimed to break us up as comrades, indignify us politically and crush us emotionally.
A condition of psychological captivity was created. The two hunger strikes which achieved the release of our family members on extremely restrictive terms (Athena Tsakalou was ostracized in Salamina and was not allowed to leave the island, while Evie Statiri was only able to move within a 1km perimeter from her house as a zone of limited freedom) did not counter-balance the situation, just gave us a little more time to think and organize.
It’s obvious that the state has personified its rage in some of us. But, that was the trap: to consider that the war waged by power has person-centered attributes. No, power is not concerned with the names, but on the contrary focuses on the choices made by those persons.
Choices that all of us, who were personally attacked by seeing our families become their hostages, were not willing to betray.
iii) The trial
The trial was set for the 15th of February 2016, with 28 defendants, case files containing thousands of pages (which we never actually received), 21 witnesses (from the 80 who were called initially) and a lot of stress… Stress for all the people we knew power would play games of fear on their back.
Among the defendants were people we had never seen before and also people who were familiar through friendly gestures towards us (for example carrying a travel bag with clothes), people who were facing the danger of conviction as »members of a terrorist organization».
The game was planned and the message is timeless…
A CONDITION REQUIRING QUARANTINE MUST BE CONSTRUCTED, A ΤRENCH AROUND THE REMORSELESS GUERILLAS MUST BE CREATED AND ANYONE DARING TO CROSS OVER WOULD BE FACING SENTENCES FROM 25 YEARS TO LIFE.
This was directed towards people in solidarity, friends and family. This was the bet of fear. This is what we had to deal with.
The previous conditions in their entirety, the communicational war staged by the mass media, animosities on the personal level and transfers to isolated cells in the prison’s basement, had politically disconnected this trial from all the rest, since the very beginning.
On the 15th of February nobody called for a rally at the court. Embarrassment, fear, neglect and routine… At the beginning the lack of solidarity was deafening.
This situation was very convenient for the judges since their dirty job would be done in secrecy. Simultaneously, the emotional blackmail with the captivity of our family members and the constant threat of them re-entering prison, made the judges consider they would go on with the trial without our engagement in the debate. They thought our fears would sew our lips.
But history was never written this way…
iv) A small parenthesis
Since September 2009, the number of political prisoners was constantly increasing. This was on account of the preceding 2008-2009 period during which the anarchist urban guerilla tried to storm the sky through dozens of explosions, shots against cops and journalists, the execution of a cop of the anti-terrorism police and more.
Initially, the interest shown by anarchists was great and intense mobilizations of solidarity took place: people were present at court, posters, events, assemblies and some offensive actions…
After that, the names of arrestees were added like numbers in a prison list which had the size of a phone book. At the same time a division occurred among those who took responsibility and supported armed actions and those who stated they did not have anything to do with the charges. Also, there were »frictions» on our part as C.C.F. with a particular segment of anarchism, which despite its effort to spread lies and fight against our organization during the previous period, at that moment it pretentiously appeared in solidarity with us.
In the years that followed, the tensions among political prisoners intensified, the constant persecutions even within prison created a labyrinth of trials (most members of the C.C.F. have at least 5-6 trials) and the people in solidarity are not as many because of the exhaustion and defeatism that characterizes anarchists to a great extent.
As a result the courtrooms were empty of people in solidarity…but were full of plainclothes cops and members of the anti-terrorism police.
The reasons are plenty and definitely require strong doses of criticism and self- criticism but mostly propositions to restore solidarity and relaunch the anarchist attack. The parenthesis stops here.
v) 1+1= as much as judges want
From the very first moment the judges gritted their teeth
The trial was in fast-track mode to avoid a possible release of the defendants following the completion of the 18-month limit of detention in remand. This is not our own estimation, but the exact words of the judge. With repetitions of ‘‘Let’s get it over with», the list of prosecution witnesses was composed.
While we were charged with four counts of attempted manslaughter against the police officers of Iteas PD, nobody was called for this case: on one hand in order to save time and on the other hand so that the political character of this action would not become obvious through our cross-examination of the witnesses (a retaliation for the murder of a prisoner in Nigrita prison, who was also tortured during his transfer and at the police department). Naturally, the court convicted us for the four counts following the judicial decision.
Now we must say a few words about the legal aspect of the case. In spite of legal jargon being extremely boring and hostile, it is a useful tool in deciphering the methods of power.
This case was based on…an intention to escape.
This was basically a trial lacking real events that actually took place.
There were many guns, even more explosives, two lairs, a few stolen cars and a plan which unfortunately remained on paper…
The price for all of these was 1500 years in prison.
The entire case file was written in future perfect…» they will have exploded» »they will have used’’ ‘‘they will have escaped» …. The actions are missing but the intentions are abundant.
All the defendants were indicted as » members of a terrorist organization» in order to magnify of their actions.
A man accused for carrying a travel bag with clothes and money (5000 euro) was given a 20-year sentence as a member of the C.C.F… This is how the way is paved for the forthcoming penalization of the structures of the anarchist movement and the solidarity funding for political prisoners. A lawyer was accused as a member of the C.C.F. because he said to a defendant »Don’t forget your appointment with Maria» which was proven not to have been code language for something else but an actual appointment.
Our families were taken to court as members of the C.C.F. and were charged as »messengers» while it was known all along that all of our communication was with the use of coded email messages and of course there were no actual persons acting as…. ‘‘Messengers». There are many instances of legal fundamentalism which constituted the backbone of this trial.
All of these are stated so we can finish with the illusions.
Their laws are created and formed by their standards and they are not ashamed to lie nor are they stingy when it comes to deciding on a punishment of vengeance. Their laws do not follow the mathematical truth of 1+1=2 but 1+1= as much as the judges want. This is not a diversion or an irregularity of the laws but their very essence.
The intention behind highlighting the judicial coup taking place during trials is not to denounce it but to expose once again the ugliness of power and to propose the dilemma: »either with the world of law and order or with revolution and anarchy»
vi) ’’But…. it’s moving»
Our reaction against the fascism of the judges has not left any room for misinterpretation. We were not going to act as bystanders during our own conviction. Otherwise they should have mailed the ruling to our cells.
We have repeatedly clashed with the judges and crushed their arrogance (judges are used to face defendants who bow their heads) and in the end we attacked by throwing stuff at the presiding judge who ran in panic to hide.
At this point the balance changed. The provocative stance of the judge elicited a reaction on our part, which pointed at the political opposition of two worlds in the most emphatic way… revolution against power. The erosive inaction retracted and a segment of people in solidarity activated their reflexes in Athens and elsewhere. Solidarity calls at the court were made, banners dropped, a radio station was occupied, constant counter-information for every trial session appeared online, attacks against legal targets were made, a bomb package was sent to a judge who refused to release the arrested family members of the CCF and it seemed that things started moving again…
During the trial, we were initially expelled from the courtroom, following the removal of people in solidarity by the police.
At the same time G. Petrakakos left the courtroom during his own trial, presided by the same judge, as a gesture of solidarity with us and published a statement referring to fascist ploys.
The case was now getting publicity and as a result it could not go on in obscurity in the judicial caves of predetermined rulings…
Simultaneously, the judges sensed a threat for retaliation in the air. There were opponents outside the court room.
They revoked our expulsion from the courtroom and with significant annoyance were forced to listen to our political positions and especially our statements (since we refused to apologize) which were an offensive torrent of deconstruction of the judicial mafia.
Furthermore, the presence of defense witnesses from a wider progressive range in society (writers, actors, university professors), which did not come to testify the typical »they are good people, don’t put them in prison» but stated their compliance saying »we would do the same» showed that the trial was having extensions beyond the exclusive confrontations of the anarchist urban guerilla.
Surely the judges got revenge by directing all their rage against »criminal» prisoners. Their retreat before our political presence was transformed into retribution against other defendants.
The aggression of the presiding judge against them was an effort to complete her lost monologue… » Can’t you speak in Greek?» »So, you are Albanian, how come you were hanging-out with Greeks?» accompanied by numerous racist comments towards co-defendants who were not Greeks was the safest way for the judges to regain their lost arrogance.
Obviously we did not sit down idly and we stood by other co-defendants in every way. But the ruling had been made.
The mandatory retreat of the judges with the not-guilty (by majority) verdicts for my mother and my brother’s wife and the non- imprisonment of G. Polydoros’ brother, had to be compensated with hundreds of years in prison for the rest of us.
The moments when judges added the years of imprisonment of »criminal» defendants and laughed loudly when a mistake was made in the calculations, among comments such as » this is why I did not become a mathematician» are indications of their intoxicating arrogance.
viii) The bet
The end of the trial has left us with a bitter-sweet sense.
This was a trial that reactivated the worn-out reflexes or solidarity and proved their significance. Without solidarity we would not have put an end to the retributive regime of the persecution against our families.
This trial brought people back to court and interrupted a hibernating routine which had deactivated most political trials and degraded them to routine procedures.
But this was also a trial that, apart from our 115-year convictions and Angeliki’s 28 year sentence, threw many people to prison for 25 years. People were literally convicted because they were our friends or acquaintances. They might have not been anarchists but these are the instructions of the quarantine… Anyone attempting to go near anarchist urban guerillas might join them in the cell next door.
Through the memories of the trial, the issues we come across are plenty.
An initial assessment has already been made. The orders of the state for the isolation and quarantine of political enemies (isolation in the basement cells, communicational defamation and political denigration, prosecutions against family members and friends and long-term convictions) are clear. So a trench is created around us aiming to restrict the impassable of the choice of the anarchist urban guerilla.
For those of us who have chosen to join the war against power as a way of life, it is important to trace the course followed by the orders of power.
In the light of this trial, an honest dialogue could begin. Political trials are not just the trials against George, Gerasimos, Olga, Angeliki. These are the trials against a choice… the choice of the anarchist urban guerilla.
These trials constitute a legal laboratory where the authority experiments with the entire penal system and produces new forms of justice for the state through them.
The counter-judicial stance composed of questions, interventions and statements by political prisoners ruins any effort of democracy to beautify itself. The complete discredit of the judicial apparatus through the defendants’ refusal to participate in the trial constitutes a desecration for the arrogance of judges. Also, the presence of people in solidarity at court creates a leverage which cannot be easily ignored by the judicial mafia. At the same time more offensive actions such as arson, sabotage, bombs and executions, act as retaliation against the sadistic appetite of the court.
The bet is to reconstitute ourselves, to gather our moments and plan an overall attack, to transform anarchy from an occasional pastime to a reality of war… where everything is possible…until total liberation.
This is the only way to create places and eras where history won’t just unfold, but will be written by us…
Christos Tsakalos, Member of the CCF/FAI-IRF -Urban Guerilla Cell
via Radiofragmata translation project
Tags: Athens, CCF Escape case, Christos Tsakalos, Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, Conspiracy of Cells of Fire - Urban Guerilla Cell, Greece, Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI), International Revolutionary Front
This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 at 10:19 pm and is filed under Prison Struggle.