Jailed Ex-Dictator Appears in Public for Cyprus Hearing
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ George Papadopoulos, who headed the former military dictatorship, was released from jail for the first time in 12 years Tuesday to testify about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
Wearing a gray suit and red tie, the 68-year-old former colonel made no statement as police escorted him from Parliament where he was questioned for eight hours a 30-member committee of legislators.
Papadopoulos, serving a life sentence for treason, reportedly testified his military regime was not influenced by the United States, declared that he was not a traitor and denied knowledge of torture committed during his regime.
Parliament members said he was summoned from Korydallos Prison outside Athens to answer questions about his 1967 decision to remove 12,000 Greek troops from Cyprus, where they had been stationed to deter a possible Turkish attack.
The military regime that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974 instigated a coup on the island in July 1974 that triggered a Turkish invasion. More than 25,000 Turkish troops still occupy the northern third of Cyprus, a Mediterranean island nation.
″Papadopoulos was responsible for removing the Greek division from Cyprus, which weakened defense capabilities on the island and encouraged the invasion,″ committee member Ioannis Koutsoyannis, a member of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement, told The Associated Press.
The former artillery colonel, gray-haired with a bristly mustache, said the division’s presence was ″illegal and contributed little to the island’s defense,″ according to committee members who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Overthrown in November 1973 by his military police chief, Brig. Dimitris Ioannides, Papadopoulos was under house arrest at the time of the Cyprus coup. Ioannides, also jailed in Korydallos, is to appear before the investigating committee on Thursday.
Ioannides’ plan to declare ″enosis,″ or union, between Greece and Cyprus was forestalled by the Turkish invasion that split the island into separate Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sectors.
Papadopoulos in August 1975 was sentenced to death on charges of treason and overthrowing democracy in the April 21, 1967, coup, but the punishment later was commuted to life imprisonment.
Papadopoulos was taken to Parliament shortly after dawn Tuesday in an unmarked security police van. Twelve hours later, he was whisked out of the front entrance of the central Athens building surrounded by police and photographers.
Parliamentarians said the former colonel refused to answer questions on his overthrow or comment on other junta members, including 16 who remain imprisoned.
Papadopoulos said he ″never accepted pressure″ from the United States, which many Greeks still accuse of supporting the junta.
He denied any knowledge of torture during the regime, reportedly saying, ″I would have been ashamed of such activities.″
The committee has questioned 80 politicans, diplomats and former officers since it was set up last July by Premier Andreas Papandreou’s socialist government. The probe, expected to be completed in the fall, could lead to criminal charges against those thought responsible for the Cyprus coup.
Though the Cyprus coup triggered the collapse of the dictatorship and restoration of democracy in Greece, it also spawned a series of disputes with NATO ally Turkey that linger today.