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November 17 terrorist go on trial in Greece for 1000 offenses

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

ATHENS Greece's largest counter-insurgency trial has centered on the alleged leader of the November 17 group.

The prosecution has charged Alexandros Giotopoulos with 1,000 offenses as the alleged leader of November 17. This includes every attack attributed to the group as well as being an accessory in six killings.

The prosecution began the trial on Monday by presenting a witness list of 333 people, 40 of them foreign nationals, Middle East Newsline reported. The defense plans to call 70 witnesses. The trial is not being covered by live radio or television.

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"The dismantling of November 17 is a great national success," Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas said. "It proves that democracy gives its own answers to violence, fanaticism, and phenomena that breed terrorism."

If convicted, most of the defendants face life in prison. Some of the attacks attributed to November 17, such as the 1975 assassination of CIA station chief Richard Welch, are not included in the indictment because Greece has a 20-year statute of limitations.

Giotopoulos has been indicted on 1,000 counts. They include involvement in murder, attempted murder, a bombing attack and attempted bombing as well as two robberies. Giotopoulos has denied the charges.

Another November 17 figure, Dimitris Koufontinas, has been charged with 84 counts and Savvas Xeros, regarded as the group's leading assassin, with 78 counts. Both men are accused of being responsible for most of the killings by November 17.

The trial of 19 defendants is expected to disclose new details of the 28-year insurgency campaign in Greece by November 17. The group is said have been responsible for more than 100 attacks since 1975, including bombings and assassinations of British, Turkish and U.S. diplomats.

Families of the victims are hoping the trial will discuss the failure of Greek authorities to arrest any November 17 suspect until July 2002. Greek parliamentarian Alexandros Lykourezos has intimated that November 17 could have enjoyed protection from sympathizers within Greece's left-wing governments.

"I think the question of why nothing happened for 27 years needs to be investigated, to find out if there are people responsible for that," Lykourezos said.

Some Greek analysts believe the arrests of November 17 suspects was motivated by the Olympic Games in Athens scheduled for 2004. The analysts said Greek leaders had concluded that without a strong public effort against terrorism many countries would stay away from the Olympic Games.

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