Dr. Antonio Martinez: "Gregory is being punished for his political ideas"

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Dr. Antonio Martinez is a psychologist with the Institute for Survivors of Human Rights Abuse and co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture in Chicago. Dr. Martinez has been recognized by UNESCO for his lifelong work treating survivors of torture and human rights abuses. Revolution talked with him outside the Cook County Jail as people protested the re-jailing of Gregory Koger on July 23. For the latest news on the railroading of Gregory Koger, see "Revolutionary Gregory Koger Sent Back to Jail... Judge's Secret Ruling Comes to Light."


Revolution: Dr. Antonio Martinez, we just came from the courthouse where we saw the display by the judge of some blatant...

Dr. Antonio Martinez (interrupting): Cynicism! Cynicism and lies and it was power abuse, a demonstration of how this system uses all its power to control people and to silence voices that are fighting for justices, they do whatever they want. This case, this judge, they really broke the law. They didn't follow the procedure. It was very obvious. And it's very obvious that Gregory is getting punished for his political ideas. It's very obvious they are afraid of what he is saying.

Actually, in my other side, my other alter ego, as an artist, my name is Olmo. I began yesterday, no, two days ago, a project called "The Shroud of Sorrows" that Gregory actually did a small, little film about it. Where in "The Shroud of Sorrows" we are asking people to stamp the shroud with different stamps of linocuts symbolizing light, trees, rain, justice, community, communication, one stamp for every prisoner that is now on hunger strike. We are looking for 30,000 of these little stamps. The shroud eventually will probably be 100 feet long. Our idea with this is to raise consciousness, to give to each person who stamps the shroud materials to call their representative, to call their churches, to talk about this injustice. Especially to fight the issue of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement beyond two weeks is torture, absolutely torture. I was a co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the treatment of torture. I was the first director for seven years. I've written books and articles about the topic. I have been now for 13 years volunteering in the same center. I'm telling you that solitary confinement does the same to the individual as torture does. Destroy the personality, break down the individual. We cannot allow this. The United Nations has declared solitary confinement beyond two weeks as torture and there's no doubt about it. We cannot permit this in this country. Even Pinochet [in Chile] in their concentration camps—people were able to talk to each other, they had music, they played, they had music. And to take a human being and to deny them one of the most basic things that defines us as human—human contact—is absolutely criminal. We're telling that we want to rehabilitate prisoners and nevertheless we are destroying the most healthy part of their personality, that is, their desire to connect to other people. It's like if I broke a leg, and I go to the hospital and they tell me we are going to fix your leg by cutting your two legs. That is what's happening. It doesn't make sense and is a crime against humanity. Human contact is not a privilege; human contact is a right.

Revolution: In the face of all that, in the face of that structure of torture and degradation that you've described, how do you feel about Gregory's stand, with his case—joining the prisoner hunger strike?

Gregory Koger

Martinez: Gregory is a very moral person. He is one of the most moral persons that I have met in my life. And he has very low weight and his life will be at serious risk. I consulted with several doctors. After two weeks, when he has little weight, he says to me that his moral duty, when he enters immediately into this jail, he immediately will go into a hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners that are right now on a hunger strike in California, and the ones in Guantánamo Bay that are survivors of torture also. I think that he is doing a great service for humanity. I care a lot for him and his life is in danger at this moment because he cannot be in this more than two weeks and, knowing his commitment, he will continue. So that's why I am afraid. He is one of the most intelligent, compassionate, and sweet persons I have met. He was seven years in solitary confinement [before] and there was a moment in solitary confinement that he decided that he was not going to let himself be broken by solitary confinement and that was thank you to the revolutionary papers that he was receiving and he was able to put some meaning to his experience. That's why another thing that is going to happen is that he is going to put a suit against Cook County government and this jail that deny newspapers to the prisoners. And this is very important that they have the capacity also to be able to give meaning to their life experience.

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