NEWS

Perhaps it is the last chance for this country’s democratic system, one that is ‘full of holes’

Terrorism has been a disfiguring tumor in the body of post-dictatorship democracy in Greece, originating in the non-acceptance of changing conditions. There were those who could not get used to the idea of the restoration of democracy and remained entrenched in the rationale of armed conflict. A small circle who adopted «armed revolutionary struggle» during a time of democratic legality encouraged the growth of other groups who, irrespective of any links with armed groups, exploited their actions. Almost six months after the discovery of alleged members of the November 17 terrorist group and on the eve of revelations about the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), May 1 and Revolutionary Cells, it can be said with some certainty that conditions were created on the fringes of the November 17 and other such groups for the rise of various «activities» which influenced developments in their own way. Revolutionaries, terrorists, robbers, extortionists, agents local and foreign, all found fertile ground to further their ambitions through threats and fear, and to exploit the murders. At the Public Order Ministry, there is no doubt that November 17’s actions gave rise to parallel interests that are expected to be revealed in the near future. The rooting out of ELA, expected within the next few days, will indicate the involvement of foreign terrorist groups, highlighting the links with Greek terrorism and the secondary relations these developed with secret services in other countries. ELA’s «Philippe,» as he was referred to in the files of the East German secret service Stasi by Johannes Weinrich, the right-hand man of convicted terrorist Carlos the Jackal, was the link with the foreigners, the person who traveled to Belgrade, Budapest, Bucharest, Lebanon and Syria. It was these meetings that led to two bombing attacks in Athens, the first at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in 1983 and the second at the Oscar bar in Glyfada frequented by US servicemen. The police investigation indicates that the Carlos gang had suggested ELA carry out «mad» schemes, which did not eventuate, although the contact certainly brought the people closer together. «George» learned to make new explosives, how to detonate bombs electronically, and how to avoid mistakes, bringing the knowledge into November 17. Given Carlos’s relationship with the East German services, it is evident that Greek organizations had contacts with Stasi agents. The extent of their influence and dependence can only be guessed at. When the police found out that «Philippe» was ELA’s link with Alexandros Yotopoulos in November 17, things assumed another dimension, although many would like to believe that Yotopoulos, alias «Lambros,» never listened to anyone else. Things became even more interesting considering that the East German infiltration of Greece expanded after 1981, when the Honecker regime felt political conditions in Greece allowed for some margin of action. It was during that period, between 1981 and 1990, when the most terrorist attacks occurred, against businessmen who stood in the way of the East Germans’ goals. At that time, DDR agents were all over Athens setting up contacts with agents in the state secret service (KYP), now PASOK-controlled, according to Stasi files and correspondence with its agents. Coincidentally, it was during this same period that the first wave of extortion attempts were made by those invoking threats from November 17. The extortion racket that is now hitting the headlines began back then, involving people linked with the colonels’ junta and who are now presenting themselves as «innocents» and enjoying the limelight. At that time, agents of the para-state, former juntists among others, found shelter in the service of businessmen who had found favor during the junta; they acquired legitimacy and re-established links with KYP. As Yotopoulos was handing out populist pseudonyms to the bad boys of 1979 and was establishing the first generation of November 17 members, the «new» KYP was using para-state agents to discredit people such as Andreas Christodoulidis and bring back in to the fold former ultra-rightist agents. At the same time, other outside forces were trying to involve the country in international plots, and trying to use November 17 to prove a Greek connection with the Kurdish guerrilla war in Turkey. A dangerous group was located around the northern suburb of Drosia, while mechanisms were operating within the police force ready to exploit counter-terrorism for their own benefit. As the years passed, a complex web of suspicious characters and illegal interests was established around November 17 and ELA, acting to protect them and to obstruct investigations. It was a meeting of two extremes, two sides of the same coin acting almost alongside each other. Years later, Michalopoulos would say that he used to see Yotopoulos, agents and those linked with them taking whatever they wanted and pulling others into their ranks. During the 1990s, many had good reason not to want November 17 to be discovered, preferring that the country remain in its shadow. Above all, they did not want to take any risks, in case anyone lost control and talked. That became evident last summer, when those appearing on television talk shows spoke out freely in order to undermine the investigation and to provoke even one mistake. They even pointed to the homes of Americans where suspect Dimitris Koufoudinas, then still on the run, was supposed to be hiding. Today, these same people are trying to preserve the code of silence, an omerta, to keep the case within the walls of Korydallos Prison, among those who are only now realizing that they have become tools. All these years, unfortunately, our democracy was «full of holes,» in the words of one government official. Valuable time and strength was wasted, along with the efforts of the Greek people. Perhaps now is democracy’s last chance. Politics, the judiciary and the press should act according to the law and the institutional democratic framework. They should bring to light all aspects of the case so that institutions may finally be able to function, for blame to be assigned and and conditions established to banish everything that is keeping the country on its knees.