NEWS

Probe into Nov 17 extortion link

Anestis Papanastasiou, a 41-year-old bank employee, became the 19th suspected member of the November 17 terrorist organization to be jailed pending trial. He was taken to Korydallos Prison yesterday under heavy guard after appearing before prosecutor Constantine Vompiris and investigating judge Leonidas Zervobeakos. The Athens prosecutor also ordered an urgent inquiry into reports that a well-known extreme right-wing publisher extorted money from businessmen by claiming that he could intervene with N17 to take them off its hit list. A note purportedly written by industrialist Dimitris Angelopoulos on April 4, 1985 implicating publisher Grigoris Michalopoulos (a year before N17 murdered the industrialist), sparked a police investigation which, reports said, found that several other leading industrialists had been approached by Michalopoulos in the same way. Prosecutor Sotiris Bayias instructed the anti-terrorism squad and security police to give him whatever information they have on the issue. Papanastasiou, who was arrested outside his home in Thessaloniki on Thursday, denied the charges of joining and being a member of a criminal organization, saying he never knowingly came into contact with any members of N17. A cousin of his, Nikos Papanastasiou, was arrested in July and is one of the 18 suspects being held at Korydallos Prison. Another suspected member is out on bail. Their trial has been set for March 3. Anestis Papanastasiou said in a four-page memorandum to the judge and prosecutor yesterday that he was the victim of a number of coincidences and that he opposed the activities of N17. «No ideology, no philosophical concept, no political action or religious obsession can override the value of human life,» he wrote. The gang has claimed the death of 23 people between late 1975 and mid-2000. Papanastasiou repeated that a hand-drawn map of the army camp where he had served near Serres, and which was found in an N17 hideout last year, was drawn by him at the request of senior officers at the camp. The map, he said, disappeared from his home, implying that his cousin must have taken it. His fingerprints on other documents, he reportedly said, resulted from his cousin lending him the notes to read. Sources said prison authorities had been ordered to keep the Papanastasiou cousins apart. On the alleged extortion, Dimitris Angelopoulos, the murdered industrialist, wrote in his diary: «Mr Grigoris Michalopoulos, a journalist from Eleftheri Ora, visited me today, 3/4/1985, at 9.30 a.m. and told me confidentially that: November 17 had me listed as its next target, as an economic player, and that he had been taken blindfolded to a specific location where he was informed that (Vardis) Vardinoyiannis and Dimitris Angelopoulos were on the list of economic players. He said that he intervened and said that he was a relative of mine and so my name was scratched from the execution list. How true all this is I do not know. But he added some details. That from surveillance of me they had learned that I use a Honda car, they know the route I use daily. Mr Michalopoulos assured me that from then on I was in no danger.» In a postscript, Angelopoulos added: «Mr Michalopoulos brought me the note regarding my being taken off the (mystery) list.» Michalopoulos has denied the reports but said that he had met Alexandros Yotopoulos, N17’s suspected leader. The jailed Yotopoulos denied this on Sunday.