NEWS

Police launch crackdown on ELA terrorists

After threatening for a half a year to arrest members of Greece’s main left-wing terrorist groups, many of whose identities were leaked to the press months ago, counter-terrorism police finally made their move over the weekend. In a coordinated Athens swoop late on Saturday and early yesterday, officers took into custody an island mayor, a civil engineer and a tourist agency employee accused of participation in the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA). Active between early 1975 and 1995, the group carried out over a hundred Athens and Piraeus bomb attacks, killing two targets and injuring dozens of people – mainly policemen. ELA, which is believed to have been founded in 1973, is thought to have had close relations in the 1970s and early 1980s with November 17, Greece’s most deadly terrorist organization, and to have spawned several smaller groups. Nineteen N17 suspects have been arrested since the end of June, and 18 – including one woman – are being held pending trial on March 3. The first ELA suspect to be detained, in a Patissia electric railway station at midnight on Saturday, was Angeletos Kanas, 52, elected Mayor of Kimolos – a small Cycladic island with 728 inhabitants next to Milos – during last October’s municipal polls. Next in line was Constantinos Agapiou, a 56-year-old Athens civil engineer arrested around 6 a.m. in a Kolonaki flat, followed by Irini Athanassaki, 49, who was caught in her Peristeri apartment an hour later. All three were formally charged late yesterday, and denied any link with ELA, which disbanded in 1995. Kanas, who had spent much of last week defending himself on television against charges – leaked to the press but never officially formulated – that he was an ELA explosives supplier and master bomb-maker code-named «George,» took the ferry to Piraeus on Saturday to speak to his lawyer. Breezily playing with his worry beads and accompanied by a bevy of journalists and TV cameras, Kanas took the electric railway into town, spent an hour in his lawyer’s office on Ipirou St, near Victoria Square, and then headed for his Athens pied-a-terre in Patissia. He was arrested as he got off the train at Aghios Nikolaos, and whisked off to the Alexandras Avenue police headquarters. The Kimolos mayor, an electrician by profession, denies ELA membership. In interviews last week, he variously attributed the leaked accusations to a smear campaign by his estranged first wife, or to financial interests wanting to declare the sea around Kimolos a marine park. «She is going round all the Piraeus haunts of Kimolos people and slandering me,» Kanas said of his ex-wife. Yesterday, Appeals Court prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos charged him with ELA membership. According to court sources, Kanas is believed to have been trained in bomb-making by associates of international left-wing terrorist Carlos «The Jackal.» The names of several ELA suspects cropped up in the files of the former East German secret police, the Stasi, which funded Carlos’s organization. Agapiou, who is believed to have used the code name «Philippe,» is accused of being a top-level ELA man who handled contacts with Carlos’s group. Athanassaki is thought to have used the name «Myrto,» and is accused of typing ELA’s pamphlets. Police are now poised to arrest at least two more suspects, and are expected to extend their net to include people who belonged to the ELA offshoots May 1 and Revolutionary Nuclei.