Report of the 5th International Symposium/Athens 2006

June 12th, 2007


15th-18th December 2006, Athens / Greece

The International Symposium, which has traditionally been organised every year by the International pam_africa1.gifPlatform Against Isolation, took place for the 5th time, on this occasion in Athens, between 15 and 18 December in the Economics Faculty (ASOEE). In this period, where everywhere in the world and in all spheres of life there are massacres, oppression, torture and occupations, and where imperialist attacks are on the rise, the International Symposium Against Isolation has reflected the voice of the peoples of the earth in struggle. Institutions and people from more than 30 countries have taken part in the Symposium.

The following were guests at this year’s Symposium in Athens:
1. Jose Cala, 1st. Secretary of the  Cuban embassy in Greece, 2. Porfirio Pestana, 1st Secretary of the Venezuelan embassy in Greece, 3. Pam Africa, coordinator of the international families and friends of Mumia Abu Jamal (Free the Move 9, USA), 4. Ramona Africa, only adult survivor of the bombing of the MOVE movement in Philadelphia in 1985 (USA), 5. Committee !Basta Ya (Germany), 6. Andonia Legaki, Anti-war movement and Committee for Constitutional Rights of the Lawyers’ Bar Association of Athens (Greece), 7. Solidarity and Democracy Alliance for the Freedom of the Peoples - Demokratiki Sispirosi (Greece), 8. Arab Loutfi, film director, Socialist Party of Egypt (Egypt), 9. Maisara Malas, Chairman of the Committee for Prisoners in Zionist Jails (Jordan), 10. Dr. Hisham Bustani, writer and representative of the People’s Front of Arab Resistance - Pan Arab (Jordan), 11. Melek Akgun, TAYAD (Turkey), 12. Gloria Rubac, Texas Movement for the Abolition of the Death Penalty (USA), 13. Mohammed Safa and Amal Khalil, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture (Lebanon), 14. Representatives of the Palestinian Community (Austria, Greece), 15. Federation of Youth Associations (Turkey), 16. Mehmet Gocebe, member of the Advisory Board of TMMOB - Association of Architects and Engineers’ Chambers (Turkey), 17. BES - Trade Union of Office Workers (Turkey), 18. Front for Rights and Freedoms (Turkey), 19. Lawyer Barkin Timtik, People’s Law Bureau (Turkey), 20. Jesus Marquez, PCPE - Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (Spain), 21. CLEA - Committee for the Freedom of Opinion and Association (Belgium), 22. 23rd September Movement (Bulgaria), 23. Nurhan Erdem, Chairwoman of the Anatolian Federation (Germany), 24. Support Committee for the Campaign against Article 270 (Italy), 25. International Forum (Denmark), 26. Mina Zarin, Prisons Dialogue - living in exile, former political prisoner in Iran (Germany), 27. Irish Unity Committee (USA), 28. TAYAD Committee (Germany), 29. VVN-BdA - Association of those persecuted under the Nazi regime - League of Anti-Fascists (Germany), 30. Alexander Moumbaris, former political prisoner in South Africa (France), 31. Senza Censura (Italy)

Organisations, which supported the Symposium in Greece:
Solidarity Committee with Political Prisoners in Turkey, OLME (Federation of Middle School Teachers), DOE (Federation of Elementary School Teachers), SFEA (Union of those exiled and imprisoned in 1967 - 1974), PAME (Radical Workers’ Front), Freedom and Solidarity of the Peoples, Democratic Unity, SDYA (Union of Court Employees in Athens), POSYP (Federation of Culture Ministry Workers), Federation of Economics Ministry Workers, POEM (Federation of Metal Industry Workers), Federation of Railway Workers, SINASPISMOS (Left Unity Party), NAR (New Left Current), Anti-Imperialist Network in the European Social Forum, KOE (Communist Organisation of Greece), DEA (International Workers’ Solidarity, OKDE, EKKE, Stop the War, Anti-War International Movement - Greece, League of Struggle of Clerics, ADEDY (Federation of Public Service Workers), DSA (Bar Association of Athens), Union for Fraternity in the Balkans, EKA (Athens Workers’ Centre), Independent Struggle, Greek Poets’ Association, Palestinian Workers’ Association of Europe, DFLP, Laikos Dromos (Magazine “Road of the People”), Laiki Enotita (Unity of the People), the local government of Pireus.

In addition, a representative of the European Left Party issued greetings to the Symposium.

Because of visa problems, the lawyer Sahar Mahdi, honorary Iraqi attorney for prisoners held in Abu Ghraib prison, and Saleh Nazzal, from the former Palestinian ministry for prisons, could not take part in the Symposium.  Awni Al-Kalemji, of the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance, was prevented by the security

services of Switzerland from leaving Zurich airport and he was sent back to Denmark. The pretext was a ban on travel, of the sort used in particular by the British and German states. The lawyer Robert Robideau from the USA, a member of the defence committee for Leonard Peltier, could not take part at the last minute because of technical problems with his air ticket. Participants who could not take part sent a short message to the Symposium. In the course of the four day Symposium programme, there were four seminars dealing with various aspects of isolation. The Symposium started at mid-day on 15th December, 2006. In front of the chamber a reception table was set up, where identity cards with the IPAI logo and lunch coupons were issued. The representative of IPAI (International Platform Against Isolation) opened the Symposium by greeting the various delegations that had arrived. She emphasised the importance of the 5th International Symposium Against Isolation in the light of the times we live in.
After a short speech on the various dimensions of isolation, she gave information about the programme and the seminars. Then the first seminar began, entitled “political trials and the criminalisation of democratic struggles”. In this seminar, the lawyer Barkin Timtik of the People’s Law Bureau took part, as did a representative of the Youth Federation from Turkey, a representative of the support committee opposing Article 270 from Italy, CLEA from Belgium and a representative of the Democracy Alliance from Greece. In the main this seminar gave information on the recent intensification of the anti-terrorism laws in Europe and an assessment was made on the oppressive results of these laws.

On the evening of the same day there was a meal in a cultural centre. Following the meal, delegates to the Symposium took part in a cultural activity, “Concert for the future of the peoples and of hope”. About 250 people attended this. The cultural event, a part of the 5th International Symposium, began at 8 pm with with an opening speech by a speaker from IPAI. After this, the deputy mayor of Piraeus welcomed the international delegation and the Greek participants. Then a band from Piraeus, playing wind instruments, livened up the atmosphere. The folk singer Mariza Koch made a speech emphasising the solidarity of the peoples, then she sang some moving folk songs from the Aegean.

Then delegates from three different countries made speeches. These greeted the Symposium and the Death Fast resistance (in Turkey). Melek Akgun, as a representative of the association of prisoner’s families TAYAD and mother of a political prisoner gave the first speech, following the representatives of the Palestinian communities from Austria and Greece passed on greetings from the Palestinian ambassador to Greece and expressed the latter’s regret that he himself could not take part in the Symposium. This speech ended with the slogans “Freedom for Palestine” and “Freedom for all political prisoners”. Then Pam Africa from the USA, coordinator of the International Families and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and passed on the revolutionary and friendly greetings of Mumia Abu Jamal from his death cell. Pam Africa explained that she felt honoured to be invited to the Symposium and thanked the organisers. Finally Mohammed Safa from Lebanon, representative of the Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, said he wanted to greet the prisoners in struggle and the TAYAD families.
Moreover he expressed his greetings to Bahar Kimyongur and Sukriye Akar, who are imprisoned in Belgium and couldn’t come to the Symposium.
After the delegates were applauded and left the stage, Grup Yorum from Turkey played well-known marches and international songs. There was communal singing and dancing and slogans supporting resistance and opposing isolation helped create a lively atmosphere. The event ended around midnight. 

On Saturday, 16th December 2006, the programme of the Symposium started with the seminar “Isolation used against prisoners”. There were a great many

speakers at this point so the seminar was split into two parts. In the first part there took part representatives of the Palestinian communities, Pam Africa, coordinator of the International Families and Friends of Mumia Abu Jumal, Ramona Africa, the only adult survivor of the bombing of MOVE in Philadelphia in 1985, and Ralf Minkenberg from the Solidarity Committee with the Cuban Five, “Basta Ya”.

Between the first and second part of the programme there were video messages from the lawyer Behic Asci and the mother Gulcan Goruroglu, who are on the 250th day of the Death Fast resistance. In the second part Melek Akgun for TAYAD, Maisara Malas, chair of the Committee for Prisoners in Zionist Jails, from Jordan, Amal Khalil for the Khiam Rehabilitation Centre from Lebanon, Gloria Rubac, of the Texas movement for abolishing the death penalty in the USA, the lawyer Barkin Timtik of the People’s Law Bureau, Andonia Legaki, of the anti-war movement and the committee for constitutional rights of the bar association of Athens, Mehmet Gocebe, member of the advisory board of TMMOB, a representative of BES, a union of office employees, and Mina Zarin of Prisons Dialogue from Germany, took part.

Jose Cala and Porfirio Pestana, Cuban and Venezuelan diplomatic representatives, also spoke. In their speeches they talked of the experiences of Cuba and

Venezuela with regard to imperialist aggression which was carried out as part of the “war on terrorism”. They ended by expressing their thanks for being invited to the Symposium. After them, messages from prisoners who were on hunger strike from 15th to 17th December 2006 in solidarity with the Symposium were read out.

These are the prisoners known to have gone on hunger strike:
Marco Camenisch (Switzerland, Regensdorf), Bahar Kimyongür (Belgium, Ghent Prison), Musa Asoglu (Belgium, Brugge Prison) Sukriye Akar (Belgium, Brugge Prison), Ilhan Yelkuvan (Germany, Hamburg) Murat D., Salih G., Ali A., Ahmet B. (social prisoners in Hamburg) Sara Jane Olson (USA, California) Muenda (USA, is death row in Polunsky Prison) Howard Guidry (USA, death row in Houston/Texas) Benedetta Galante (Italy) Silvia Guerini (Italy) Federico Bonamici (Italy) Constantino Ragusa (Italy) Mauro Rossetti Busa (Italy) Francesco Gioia (Italy) George Ibrahim Abdallah (France) Jean-Marc Rouillan (France) Erdogan Elmas (Switzerland) Irfan Cayoglu (social prisoner, Straubing, Germany, on health grounds took part in one day of the strike)

*The hunger strike of the Communist prisoner Rainer Dittrich (Lubeck, Germany) was announced and it was mentioned that for six years he has supported the ongoing resistance in Turkey by hunger-striking for 5 and a half days and interrupting it for 2 and a half days, on a rotating basis.
*The political prisoners in Italy Zeynep Kilic and Avni Er sent their greetings to the Symposium but regretted that they could not take part in the hunger strike this year as their trial took place in the same days.
*We had been informed also that Irish Republican prisoners would take part in the symbolic strike, but so far we haven’t received concrete news.

Then messages to the Symposium were read out from Musa Asoglu, who is in jail in Belgium because of the DHKP-C trial, from Muenda, jailed in the USA because of a trial against the “Panthers United for Revolutionary Education” (P.U.R.E), and from Leonard Peltier, American Indian political prisoner in the USA. Then the message of the Iraqi lawyer Sahar Mahdi was read out: due to visa problems she could not take part in the Symposium, and reference was made to the institutions that have sent solidarity messages. It was announced that Saleh Nazzal of the former Palestinian ministry for prisoners could not come to the Symposium as a visa was issued to him too late. It was also stated that he had sent information.

After the solidarity messages, from the Democratic Socialist Perspective of Australia and the ASP from Italy had been read out, Angelos Madadakis from the European Left Party and Greek Sinaspismos took the stage and read out a speech of greetings. There were many messages during the Symposium.

There was further news from Turkey, from the Federation for Basic Rights and Freedoms: Ayten Ozturk, their designated speaker, could not come as she was one of 32 people detained and 15 charged after police raids against the Federation.

Next there was a documentary about Israeli aggression in Lebanon, entitled “The New Middle East”. The film lasted about 22 minutes, described the crimes of Zionism and imperialism and was deeply moving for everyone in the hall. After the film the Italian psychologist Paola Cecchi and Alexander Moumbaris, who spent 20 years as a prisoner in South Africa, spoke.
In the evening, Mohammed Safa from Lebanon and a representative of the Front for Rights and Freedoms (HOC) from Turkey took part in the seminar “Resistance to global war and the failure of the Great Middle East Project”.  On the morning of the 17th all delegations went on an excursion to Athens. Symposium participants gathered in front of a hotel and then went to the Acropolis by bus. On the way, songs were sung in Turkish, Greek and Spanish. After the excursion the delegations were brought back to the university, where the next seminar took place.

The Symposium in the afternoon dealt with the seminar “The ‘war on terrorism” of the USA and the future of social and political rights in Europe”. In this seminar, Hisham Bustani of the People’s Front of Arab Resistance - Pan Arab from Jordan, Arab Loutfi, a film director and representative of the Socialist Party of Egypt, and Jesus Marquez, representative of the PCPE - Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain, a representative of the 23rd September Movement from Bulgaria, Nurhan Erdem, the chair of the Anatolian Federation and a representative of the International Forum from Denmark spoke.

Then Regina Girod, spokeswoman of VVN-BdA - the union of those persecuted by the Nazi regime and the League of Anti-Fascists - greeted the Symposium. After that, a film on the Cuban Five, placed at the disposal of the Symposium by the Cuban embassy, was shown. The film described how five patriotic Cubans were imprisoned for wanting to prevent a terrorist act against their country. The next film shown described a campaign against the death penalty in the USA and bore the title “The greatest legal lynching in the history of the USA”.

Then there was a workshop that ended about 7 pm, and it was about political prisoners and trials. The following institutions and people took part:

Irish Unity Committee (USA), Gloria Rubac, Texas Movement for Abolishing the Death Penalty (USA), TAYAD Committee (Germany), Pam Africa and Ramona Africa (USA, Free The Move 9), TAYAD (Turkey), Maisara Malas, chair of the Committee for the Prisoners in Zionist Jails (Jordan), Mohammed Safa, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture (Lebanon), the lawyer Barkin Timtik, People’s Law Bureau (Turkey), Anti-Imperialist Movement (Greece), Prisoner’s Dialogue (Germany), International Forum (Denmark), Anatolian Federation (Germany), CLEA (Belgium), 23rd September Movement (Bulgaria), Support Commmittee for the Capaign Against Article 270 (Italy), Network for the Freedom of political prisoners (Germany).

The basic theme of the workshop was about guaranteeing coordination between organisations, practical support for political prisoners and answering practical questions. Since in many countries, because of anti-terrorism laws, there were a number of political trials, suggestions were discussed on formingdelegations to oberve their trials and support the prisoners. It was also decided to set up a joint website to give information about developments in the various countries and to guarantee a flow of information.

IPAI’s campaign, in existence for years, entitled “Ourselves behind walls” which is about ensuring letter communication between prisoners, is to be continued, with support for prisoners and work on translating letters to be done when needed. It was also decided to maintain links through a mailing list. After the workshop the final declaration was discussed, which had been worked on by a preparatory group.

At mid-day on Monday, 18th December, 2006, the international delegations went to a memorial meeting for those revolutionaries who fell in the battle against isolation and in resistance to imperialist wars. It took place in an instition named EAT-ESA, which the gendarmerie used as a torture centre in the time of the Greek junta and which is now a museum. Representatives of EAT-ESA, who took part and had themselves been tortured, told the delegations about those times. A wreath of red carnations was laid at the memorial for the fallen.  At the same time some international delegations went to meet Greek MPs from various parties.