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Facebook accused of censorship over Greek hunger striker

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Athens, Greece   /   Wed, March 3, 2021   /   12:00 am
Facebook accused of censorship over Greek hunger striker This file photo illustration taken on December 4, 2017 shows mousepad with the Facebook logo at Facebook's new headquarters at Rathbone Place in central London. (Agence France Presse/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

Photojournalists in Greece accused Facebook of censorship on Tuesday after pictures of a rally in support of an imprisoned hitman on hunger strike were removed from their accounts with suspension warnings.

The health of Dimitris Koufodinas, a far-left hitman who is serving multiple life sentences for 11 murders, has badly deteriorated since starting his hunger strike 53 days ago, demanding to be transferred to another prison to be near his family.

Facebook has said that the posts on Koufodinas go "against our standards on dangerous individuals and organisations" as it seeks to avoid promoting terrorists or extremists.

At least three photographers protested Facebook's decision to remove photos they took of around 3,000 people who rallied in Athens on Monday to demand his release.

"Facebook has taken down my post for violating the terms of the community," Tatiana Bolari, who works for Greek photo agency Eurokinissi, said on her Facebook page on Tuesday.

"So, this protest did NOT happen...I WASN'T there and NEITHER was anyone else," she said sarcastically.

Lefteris Partsalis, a freelancer working for CNN Greece, said he had been banned from live posting for a month after uploading pictures of the demonstration.

He said Facebook had "censored a post describing what happened in the streets of Athens yesterday, not a post expressing support to anyone".

Marios Lolos, a photographer with Chinese agency Xinhua, said his photos had also been removed and that he had been banned from posting live for two months.

Rights lawyer Thanasis Kampagiannis, who has helped organise a petition in support of Koufodinas, said last month that Facebook also imposed temporary restrictions on his account.

Koufodinas, formerly the top assassin for the defunct November 17 far-left group, is seeking a transfer from a prison in Lamia in central Greece to another high-security jail in Athens.

He has been on hunger strike since January and his health is in critical condition, according to his lawyer Ioanna Kourtovik. 

She told local media he was "between life and death, just before a coma". 

Judicial authorities have ordered the hospital in Lamia, where Koufodinas is receiving intensive care, to take "all appropriate and necessary measures" to keep him alive.

Koufodinas' supporters have staged several protests and vandalised ministers' offices in recent weeks.

The relatives of his victims on Monday urged him "to withdraw his demands and continue to live".

"His death will not bring any of our loved ones back," they said.