The US Ambassador to Greece David Pearce has said Washington will view as a “profoundly unfriendly act” legislation that paves the way for November 17 terrorist Savvas Xeros to be released from prison early.
“If Savvas Xeros–or anyone else with the blood of American diplomats and US Mission members on their hands—leaves prison, it will be seen as a profoundly unfriendly act,” said Pearce ahead of talks between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington.
“There is no place for convicted terrorists in civilized political discourse or back in Greek society. These are violent criminals and they belong in prison, nowhere else.”
MPs are due to cast a final vote on a bill that would allow prisoners suffering from heavy disabilities to be released from prison early to serve the rest of their sentences under house arrest.
“The issue is not prison reform, or alleviating overcrowding, or providing access to medical care, or improving humanitarian conditions. All of which are important,” said Pearce.
“The issue is that convicted terrorists and murderers—people who have committed terrible, heinous crimes—should serve their full sentences in prison. Not in the comfort of their homes, surrounded by their friends, families, and associates. Releasing these murderers from prison dishonors the memory of those they have killed, and violates the rights of the family members whose lives they have shattered.”
Pearce revealed that he spoke to Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos on April 2 to raise his concerns about the draft law and the Kerry also raised the matter last week with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a telephone conversation.
Xeros was convicted, among other things, of murdering with a car bomb in 1988 Captain William Nordeen, the US Defense and Naval Attaché to Greece, and killing US Air Force sergeant Ronald Stewart three years later.
“Until now, the reaction of the US government has been confined to official contacts, in the hope that there would be a positive response to some of the concerns we have raised privately about certain aspects of this legislation,” said Pearce. “I will maintain that hope.”
Turkey also expressed its concern about the possible release of Xeros, according to Daily Sabah newspaper. November 17 was found guity of murdering Turkish diplomats Çetin Görgü in 1991 and Haluk Sipahioğlu in 1994 and planting a car bomb attack that injured Turkish Charge D'affaires Deniz Bölükbaşı in 1991.
“There is no place for convicted terrorists in civilized political discourse or back in Greek society,” added the US ambassador. “These are violent criminals and they belong in prison, nowhere else.
Greece is an important force for stability in the region, and has been a good partner for the United States on a number of issues, including law enforcement and counterterrorism. We believe this legislation is inconsistent with that partnership. This is not just a humanitarian issue, it is also an important security issue.”
The matter is expected to dominate Kotzias’s meeting with Kerry on Monday, which is the Greek foreign minister’s first during a five-day trip to the US.