Premier: Greek Terror Group Gone
Sep. 08, 2002
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THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) _ Premier Costas Simitis on Sunday said authorities have dismantled the November 17 terrorist organization following the arraignment of the group's alleged chief assassin.
Simitis also vowed to wipe out all other domestic terrorist groups, including several which have been operating for decades and are thought to be associated with November 17.
``We will deal thoroughly with this issue of terrorism. There may be some fragments of November 17 left and sister organizations, but we will shed light on all of them,'' Simitis told a news conference in this northern port.
November 17 has been blamed for 23 killings and dozens of bomb attacks since it first appeared with the 1975 assassination of the CIA station chief in Athens. The group, which merged hard-line Marxism and nationalism, is named for the day in 1973 when the 1967-74 military dictatorship crushed a student-led protest.
Sixteen suspected members have been arrested following a bungled bomb attack near Athens on June 29.
The Socialist government, in power for most of the past 21 years, had been criticized at home and abroad for its failure stop the group. It now insists there is no longer any domestic terrorism threat to the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
He made the remarks as an investigating magistrate ordered the pretrial detention of November 17's alleged chief executioner, 44-year-old Dimitris Koufodinas, who unexpectedly surrendered Thursday after a two-month manhunt. Police said he spent at least one month hiding in a tent on a nudist beach near Athens.
Koufodinas has portrayed himself as a political prisoner.
``He had political motives for all his actions,'' his lawyer, Gianna Kourtovik, said after the arraignment. She said he did not accept the criminal nature of the charges against him.
During the closed-door hearing, Koufodinas was arraigned on dozens of terrorism-related charges, including 17 murders. He was also faces charges of participating in more than a dozen armed robberies. No trial date was set.
A beekeeper, Koufodinas said after his surrender that his life had been guided by ``faith in building a revolutionary movement and his vision of a Socialist society.''
He was jailed in Korydallos maximum-security prison, where 15 other November 17 suspects are in custody. One of the suspects, Alexandros Giotopoulos, 58, the alleged founder and mastermind of November 17, denies any involvement with the group.
The suspects have been jailed pending trial on multiple felony charges, including murder, attempted murder, bank robberies and causing explosions.
Some of the alleged terrorists have tried to debunk prosecutors' claims that they are common criminals. November 17 has often tried to portray itself as a Robin Hood-type of organization that fought for the rights of working-class people.
``They are not heroes they are criminals,'' Simitis said. ``We are not living in Sherwood Forest. Society must condemn these people without any doubt.''