Despite the outcry over the release from prison on Thursday of November 17 terror group hitman Dimitris Koufodinas on a two-day furlough, the government appeared defiant on Friday, while critics at home and abroad expressed concern that he may break the terms of his release, as other terrorists have done in the past, and not return to prison as scheduled on Saturday.
“Obviously we are worried that he will not return,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, citing the case of another November 17 member, Christodoulos Xiros, who escaped after being granted prison leave in 2014 before being caught in 2015.
Moreover, in a tweet, the US State Department joined the international chorus of disapproval, saying, “US condemns release of convicted terrorist Dimitris Koufodinas who was set loose on a 2-day furlough in Greece.”
In the face of the criticism from politicians and foreign diplomats, the government defended the release of Koufodinas again on Friday, reiterating that the approval of his furlough request by the prison’s council was in line with the law.
Speaking to Antenna TV, Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis denied that the government had any involvement in the decision, adding that it was “dishonesty of the first order” for anyone to suggest so.
Furthermore, he noted that Xiros had been granted furlough when New Democracy was in power.
As for the concerns that Koudofinas may violate the terms of his release, Kontonis said that the prison council’s reckoning – that he would not violate the conditions of his furlough – will be evaluated.
He also clarified that Koufodinas’s lack of any regrets over his crimes did not disqualify him from furlough.
Meanwhile, Panos Lambrou, a prominent member of ruling SYRIZA’S political secretariat who is in charge of issues pertaining to human rights and justice, slammed critics of Koufodinas’s release as “hypocrites who behave as if they don’t understand that the law was fully implemented in the case of Koufodinas.”
However, the outrage at home continued, with the Regional Governor of Central Greece Kostas Bakoyannis – whose father was murdered by November 17 in 1989 – questioning why Koufodinas was granted leave now.
“What has changed?” he asked.
November 17 was formed in 1975 and was unraveled in 2002 after the arrest and trial of a number of its members.
It launched 103 attacks on US, British, Turkish and Greek targets and assassinated 23 people over 27 years. The group was named after the day of the uprising at the Athens Polytechnic against the military junta in 1973.