According to the letter of the law, this cleaning woman abused public funds (the crime for which she was convicted) because she took a paycheck from the municipality, despite lacking the formal qualifications that would have made her employ legitimate. For every law, there are always Javerts who would seek to prosecute Valjeans.
Let's be clear: the existence of major crimes doesn’t mean that smaller infractions should be given a pass. The fact that there are major con-artists free out there does not mean that we should ignore small-scale scams. Truly.
But the “Javerts” in this case ought (if in fact they were undeserving of the name) to have considered the following: that this woman, who was unable to go to school (and who had lately been going to school because she couldn’t as a child) worked hard. And conscientiously. She didn’t pose a risk to anyone. She didn’t forge a degree that would have rendered her dangerous in the course of performing her duties. If all of this constitutes “abuse of public money,” then there really is no scope for conciliation.
And if the “legal and moral” aspects of the system of class coercion require that the cleaning woman be punished with ten years in prison for what she did, then condemnation of this version of “legality” and “morality” becomes an obligation. Societal solidarity with victims of “tyranny” is a duty for the reasons outlined by Montesquieu: “No tyranny is more cruel than that which is practiced in the shadow of the law and with the trappings of justice.” It is essential that, as a society, we rethink our laws and morals and arrive at a solution that will ensure that this woman not be punished for her misfortune with the imposition of further misfortune.
We repeat: it is not valid to claim that others, too, break the law, and in far worse ways. But if we cannot see that, in this case, the mismatch between the punishment and the crime is far beyond the pale, then we become accomplices of those who would in essence “seek revenge upon” the cleaning woman for her very poverty. And though we insist that no offence justifies further transgressions, the notion that, in a country with such a flexible justice system, so harsh a penalty has been imposed on so vulnerable a woman is truly outrageous.
We are not laboring under the delusion that all social injustice can be rectified here, but in the present moment it is of the utmost symbolic importance that action be taken, and that there be an immediate intervention to stop this attack on our sense of justice.
We therefore call on the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, to intervene. We call on him to exercise every power that resides in his official position in the interest of pardoning this cleaning woman. Not out of personal magnanimity, but out of obligation.
We call on the competent Ministry of Justice to identify, shape, and select a legal means and institutional process for releasing this woman from prison.
By simultaneously publishing this call on our respective sites, we at ThePressProject, Imerodromos, and Ellinofreneia ask that our readers disseminate this petition, sign it, and unite their voices with ours in demanding an end to this outrageous injustice.
We all remember a former minister’s infamous pronouncement that “what is lawful is also moral.” This statement came off as so provocative because it was made in reference to legal misconduct for which the perpetrator would “rightfully” go unpunished because no law had been technically violated. Here we have a case of precisely the opposite: what is lawful is not moral, because in this case what is lawful is in reality an attack upon a woman to whom we owe nothing but our respect and remorse: because she could not obtain an education, because she was unable to find work without falsifying her Primary School Certificate, and above all because she is currently sitting in prison for those very reasons.
We therefore seek that a means be found of letting this woman return home, and of reversing the shocking injustice that continues to plague her.