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Greece passes CO law but stiff sentences stand

Bart Horeman reports: About 250 conscientious objectors - all of them Jehovah's Witnesses - are currently imprisoned In Greece Usually sentenced to four years, COs start their jail term in a military prison and are later transferred to a civilian one, where they can work in exchange for a sentence reduction. When they have completed two-thirds of their sentence, the rest is conditionally suspended.

On ~ June 1997 the Greek parliament finally passed a new law on conscientious objection providing for alternative civilian service. Unfortunately, this law is one of the worst of its kind, as it requires COs to perform up to 42 months of alternative service - 18 months more than military service. It remains unclear whether imprisoned COs may "benefit" from the new law, which will come into force in January.

There Is yet another cause for concern: the Greek government has lust presented a draft law on Universal Defence, according to which all women aged between 18 and 50, and all men aged between 18 and 65 not currently serving in the armed forces or the National Guard, are compelled to complete a period of training in "universal defence units". Members of the units, partlcularly those based in border areas, will be trained in the use of arms. The draft law prescribes penalties of from six to 12 months' imprisonment for those who refuse to comply. In a period of "general mobilisation", such as has existed in Greece since 1974, the maximum penalty is three years' imprisonment.

Unless the Greek parliament rejects this draft law, there could be more than 250 Greek COs in next year's Prisoners for Peace list.
Contact Association of Greek COs, Solomou 27, 10682 Athinai, Greece (+30 1 3802 773; fax 3301 686).