CULTURE

Trial of trials judges all involved

This week was one of catharsis, as the trial began of the November 17 organization by a three-member penal court, presided over by Judge Michalis Margaritis. Within just a few days, Margaritis became the man of the moment through his ability to keep the court calm and maintain legal decorum. He gave orders to dismantle a glass structure surrounding the 19 defendants and heard, but disallowed, objections concerning radio and television coverage of the trial and a full bench. The trial is to continue after the long weekend, with a strict ban on direct broadcast of the defendants’ statements, though they may be reported by the print media and radio and television announcers. This a serious trial, run along the lines laid down by the law and the Constitution so as to arrive at the best outcome, which is no less than a just judgment. When the alleged leader of November 17, Alexandros Yotopoulos, aka Michalis Economou, asked whether the presiding judge and the other judges would «judge for your honor, the people and our culture,» Margaritis replied calmly, «You can be sure we will judge you in the way you mentioned last.» According to the values of Greek society, and not the defendant’s. And when Dimitris Koufodinas, aka Loukas, asked to speak and advised the judge to resign, so he would not end his career as a judge appointed to preside over a special court, Margaritis replied: «Come, now. You can call me appointed; I was appointed once after the exams I sat 30 years ago.» In other words, what are you talking about, Mr Koufodinas? With the television cameras outside, photographers were permitted into the courtroom. Defending counsel Ioanna Kourtovic has asked for a ban on photographs because the defendants did not want to be photographed in a cage. The glass walls were removed, to be replaced by six microphones, and the judge allowed the defendants to speak when they wish to. Then the cameras started flashing. Thirty Greek photojournalists representing major news agencies, such as Associated Press and Reuters, took up their positions before the bench and started taking photographs. Television screens and newspaper pages were flooded with pictures of sullen, arrogant, confused, indifferent, insecure individuals who are facing serious charges. Above all, photographs were taken of Yotopoulos, with his air of «What am I doing here with this lot?» Koufodinas looking indifferent, Savvas Xeros looking nervous, and most of them looking bemused by their own consciences and the consequences of their actions. Those who refused to have their pictures taken were Angeliki Sotiropoulou, Patroklos Tselentis, Anestis Papanastasiou and Yiannis Serifis, who has already been much-photographed and who is the only one not held at Korydallos Prison; he goes home after each day’s hearing. For the first three days of the trial, Heather Saunders (wife of November 17 victim Brigadier Stephen Saunders) was present as a witness for the prosecution, together with her counsel Ilias Anagnostopoulos. Also present was Stephanie Tsantes, as Yotopoulos has been accused of her father George’s murder. This trial, with its fair judgment, has a great deal of work to do, many enigmas and questions to unravel, and much blood to expiate.