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Greek Terror Suspects Hear Their Charges

March 4, 2003

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ The chief prosecutor at the trial of alleged members of Greece’s November 17 terrorist group methodically read through the long list of charges Tuesday.

The 2,000-count indictment was read in chronological order by Christos Lambrou, who is the lead prosecutor against 19 suspected members of the notorious November 17 cell.

Three senior judges are handling the trial, which opened Monday in a special bunker-style prison in Greece’s main maximum-security prison. The proceedings could last for months.

It could take an entire session just to read the accusations. The radical-nationalist group is blamed for more than 100 bombings, a string of armed robberies and 23 murders since it first struck in 1975 with the slaying of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens.

The group’s other victims included three more American envoys, two Turkish diplomats and prominent Greek business and political figures. Its latest killing was the ambush of a British defense attache in June 2000.

For more than a generation, authorities were unable to make any headway against the group. But a botched bombing last year led to a series of arrests.

The suspects on trial _ 18 men and one woman _ include alleged top hit men and the group’s suspected leader, French-born academic Alexandros Giotopoulos. If convicted, the suspects face life in prison under anti-terrorism laws bolstered before the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

But not all the bloodshed claimed by November 17 will be addressed by the court. A 20-year statute of limitations means some acts _ including the slayings of the CIA station chief and two Greek police officials _ will go unpunished.

Under Greek law, victims and their families can petition to have lawyers question defendants. At least 45 foreigners _ more than half Americans _ are expected to use the right.

The groups takes it name from a 1973 student-led uprising that was crushed by Greece’s military leaders. The seven-year dictatorship, which was backed by Washington as a buffer against communism, collapsed in 1974.

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