CULTURE

Two sides of a landmark day, July 24, 2003

The 29th anniversary of the return to democracy after the fall of the junta, commemorated on July 24, 2003, was a landmark day. The journalists who celebrated the anniversary in form and in substance during the evening with messages from President Costis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and opposition leader Costas Karamanlis in the garden of the presidential mansion, had heard a Marxist-style manifesto that morning from Dimitris Koufodinas, on trial for crimes committed by the November 17 terrorist organization. Koufodinas is the only one of the defendants to admit to membership of the organization, without admitting to the political crimes it committed. He refused to answer the judges’ and prosecutors’ questions during the trial before the three-member court. He did not answer questions concerning the other defendants or about his spouse, Angeliki Sotiropoulou – she herself forbade him to and left the court slamming the door behind her. But he gave a portrait both of himself as a «militant revolutionary» and of November 17, making comparisons with the 1821 revolution and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying the organization came to avenge «the victims of industrial accidents and of shipwrecks by plutocrats.» And he concluded the text that he read out, even though that is forbidden, with verses by Costis Palamas in which a father advises his child to «dig his garden deep, to clear it, to build a castle on it and fortify it, brandishing fire and ax, waiting for the new birth, which keeps lingering.» Then his voice broke, and the tears flowed. The cartoonists who were present recorded them and some of those in court, who had been busy expressing their views since the morning, burst into cheers and applause. «Glory and honor to the militant,» they shouted, before the chief judge Michalis Margaritis ordered the court vacated and the trial adjourned. As they left the courtroom they shouted the demonstration slogan: «The desire for freedom is stronger than any cell.» When the trial resumed, Koufodinas asked for the pubic to be allowed in «so as not to interrupt the public nature of the trial» and the president responded, «I’d like to have television in here but you didn’t want it.» In the observers’ seats, the US Embassy press spokesperson Francesca Flessati and foreign correspondents listened calmly, without commenting, to what was said against the US, «which the Simitis government thanked for Imia.» What counts is that justice is doing its job. The episodes during Koufodinas’s deposition were described by Kathimerini as «November 17’s swan song,» and the trial is continuing. The only problem is who will translate Palamas into French, as they translated Balzac into Greek for the organization’s proclamations.