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BBC: Fears for hunger strike Briton

news | 15.11.2003 02:41 | Thessaloniki EU

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Last Updated: Friday, 14 November, 2003, 21:08 GMT

Fears for hunger strike Briton

Simon Chapman, 30, from Basildon, Essex, has not eaten since 5 October 2003 in protest at his detention for crimes he says he did not commit, during an anti-capitalist protest.

But while his brother, Chris Chapman, has flown to Greece to urge him to give up the hunger strike, Simon has said he will continue until the claims against him are resolved.

Simon Chapman, speaking to the BBC from his prison in Greece, said he felt the police were looking for "someone to punish" when they arrested him and four other protesters.

He said: "I don't think it's anything personal against me directly.

Video evidence

"I think they felt someone had to be punished for the disturbances on the day and it didn't really matter who it was as long as they had someone."

Mr Chapman was demonstrating at the European Union summit in Thessaloniki in June, when he was arrested.

He was later charged with possessing Molotov cocktails, an axe and a hammer - items he says were planted on him by the police.

His supporters claim there is video evidence to prove his innocence.

However, his case and those of the other protesters - two Spaniards, a Syrian and a Greek - have yet to make it to court.

Under Greek law they can be detained for up to 18 months while their case is heard.

However, Chris Chapman said he hoped during his visit to Greece to persuade the authorities to grant his brother bail.

"I have never known Simon to be even remotely violent," he said. "It came as a complete shock when we found out what he had actually been charged with."

He added that he had urged Simon to end his hunger strike.

"I am very concerned," he said. "He's obviously lost a lot of weight since the 5 October and his health is obviously deteriorating rapidly.

"As far as I believe he's determined to continue his hunger strike until the situation is resolved."

Eleftherios Oikonomou, from the Ministry of Public Order in Greece, said he was sure justice would be done.

"Greece is a democratic country which respects human rights and the rule of law," he said.