Nov17 trial begins

Twenty-eight years after the November 17 gang began a murder spree that would last over a quarter of a century – during which time none of its members were arrested – 19 suspected members of the group go on trial today, in full view of the nation. Gang members are accused of murdering 23 people, wounding many others and robbing several banks. During this time, they issued extreme left-wing proclamations opposing capitalism, the USA, NATO and the EU. Presiding over the court are appeals court judge Michalis Margaritis, 64, assisted by appeals court judges Nikolaos Zairis, 57, and Vassilis Kourkakis, 63. Prosecuting will be appeals court prosecutor Christos Lambrou, 64. Each will have an alternate judge and prosecutor sitting behind him and ready to step in should the need arise. The trial, which is expected to last several months, will begin with a barrage of objections and counterobjections from lawyers for the defense and civil claimants, who are on the side of the prosecution. Among the issues to be discussed are journalists’ and defense lawyers’ demand for television and radio coverage of the trial. It will be up to the three appeals court judges trying the case to decide this. Other objections will involve the claim by some defendants that their actions were politically motivated The trial is being held in a specially constructed courtroom in a hall of Korydallos Prison’s women’s wing. The first trial held there, in 1975, was that of the leaders of the military dictatorship which ruled Greece from 1967-74. November 17 claimed its first murder on Dec. 23, 1975, ambushing CIA station chief Richard Welch outside his house in Psychico. British Defense Attache Brig. Stephen Saunders was the group’s 23rd, and last, victim. He was shot dead while his car was stuck in morning traffic in June 2000. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, with the full support of Prime Minister Costas Simitis, worked very closely with British and American anti-terrorism experts to reach this point. But it was a chance event that set off the exposure of the group. Savvas Xeros, an icon painter, was seriously injured by a bomb he was carrying in Piraeus on the night of June 29. He later confessed to being a member of the group, setting off a chain of arrests and leading to the discovery of two hideouts with most of the gang’s weaponry.

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