NEWS

Trials of the year: November 17, Ocalan and cocaine hauls at sea

This year’s major court cases include what is being touted as the «trial of the century,» in which suspected members of the 27-year-old November 17 terrorist group will be brought before the courts. This long-awaited event will no doubt overshadow two other important cases due to be tried in January and June, relating to the Ocalan affair and the drug haul on the Kobe Queen cargo ship. The trial of the 18 alleged members of November 17 is expected to begin in early March and to last three to six months, due to the (literally) sheer weight of evidence to be presented – around 5,000 pages, weighing about 50 kilos. Apart from the large number of the accused and the number of charges against them, around 75 defense attorneys and prosecutors are expected to take part, and about 400 witnesses called to testify. Twelve people are to stand trial on January 8 in connection with the illegal entry into Greece of Kurdish resistance leader Abdullah Ocalan in early 1999. Among those charged are two female Kurkish aides of Ocalan, Yiakar Cendikiz and Kaya Aifer, who are charged with endangering Greece’s peaceful relations with other countries; retired navy officer Antonis Naxakis, the legal representative of the company that chartered the airplane on which Ocalan was smuggled into Greece; an employee of that company; the legal representative of the aircraft’s owner; the plane’s pilot, Stefanos-Grigoris Evangelatos; Athens airport public relations officer and the police officer in charge of passport control on the night Ocalan arrived; and a security police officer. Ocalan himself, who is on death row in a Turkish prison, is charged with illegal entry into Greece. Writer Voula Damianakou and her daughter Eleni Vassilopoulou are charged with sheltering Ocalan. And on June 23 this year, an appeal is to be heard against convictions in 1999 regarding the seizure of 4 tons of cocaine from a ship en route from Colombia to Europe. A total of 17 people were involved, including eight Greek businessmen and members of the ship’s crew. They were charged with smuggling over 30 tons of cocaine between 1999 and 2001. In the original trial, businessmen L. Katelouzos and Panayiotis Haikalis and shipowner Dimitris Kondylios were sentenced to life imprisonment. Lesser sentences were given to retired captain Andreas Vergis, shipowner Ilias Kalis, shipping agent Iakovos Kartsonakis, Xenophon Voutyras, and the wives of Kondylios and Haikalis. Two other people accused were acquitted due to lack of evidence. The case, unprecedented in the annals of Greek drug operations, involved a raid by the US and Greek narcotics squads on four ships.