ELA terrorism suspects to testify today

Three men in their 50s and 60s and one woman arrested over the past few days and charged with membership in the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) left-wing terrorist group are to testify today before the investigating judge who handled the November 17 probe. Architect Christos Tsigaridas, 64, arrested on Tuesday morning in his house in the affluent Athens district of Palaio Psychico, is the only one of the four to have admitted the charges, during his initial testimony late on Tuesday, but he claimed to have left ELA in 1990. He is believed to have been the group’s top decision-maker, using the code name «Andrew.» The other three, Kimolos Mayor Angeletos Kanas, 52, who was arrested at midnight on Saturday, civil engineer Constantinos Agapiou, 56, and tourist agency employee Irini Athanassaki, 48 – both of whom were taken into custody early on Sunday – have denied the charges. Their lawyers suggested they would argue the group disbanded in 1995 and so they could not be tried under a recent anti-terror law. Beyond assuming the «political responsibility» for ELA’s acts in the 15 years since the group was founded, Tsigaridas, a father of three now in his third marriage, has refused to give investigators any information on his comrades. This reflects the approach of N17’s alleged chief hitman, Dimitris Koufodinas. In his initial testimony, parts of which were leaked to the press yesterday, Tsigaridas said ELA had intended to create «a better world.» «I admit that for a specific period of time I was a member of ELA,» the testimony read. «I withdrew in 1990, on purely personal grounds. I accept the political responsibility for the period of my membership. But my beliefs do not allow me to give further information.» ELA is believed to have been formed in 1973, and first struck on April 29, 1975, with an arson attack on eight US-owned cars in Elefsina. It is believed to have disbanded 20 years later, its last hit being a January 1995 bomb attack on the Athens Economic University (ASOEE) that caused considerable damage but no injuries. The group killed two people and injured four dozen, in over 100 attacks. «The group’s aim was to lead to a better world,» Tsigaridas said, «and our core belief was that each member should be democratically and equally represented… For the needs of the group, we used one to three houses, whose upkeep did not require large sums of money. There was no need to train the group, as our modus operandi did not require it.» He denied knowing members of other terrorist groups. ELA is believed to have maintained close contacts with N17 until the mid-1980s, and to have given birth to three or four splinter groups.