NEWS

Charges rain down

The second day of the trial of suspected members of November 17 at Korydallos is soaked by the persistent rain, but the day will be rich in news. It is the day on which the prosecutors read out the charges. First, prosecutor Christos Lambrou and then his substitute, Vassilis Markis, sticking to the words on the charge sheet, carefully and slowly read the accusations against each of the 19 accused. The defendants sit in the same places as they did on Monday, inside the same metal structure whose glass panels the court ordered removed on Monday. Of course, a cage does not make a beast, as any dictionary would show. Nor do the defendants look dangerous, sitting wordless in their places, dressed carefully – except for the Xeros brothers, Dimitris Koufodinas and Alexandros Yotopoulos, who wear the same clothes as the previous day. Only as time passes, as the charges are read out, does one begin to understand that those who are truly dangerous are not those who roar and bare their teeth or roll up their sleeves, but those who look like everyday people, like you and me, who move among us, who prepare their next criminal act without hindrance. The attacks are all here: the point-blank shooting ambushes using. 38 and. 45 handguns or shotguns, the explosives, the rockets, the car bombs, the attacks at times when passers-by were in the area, the hand grenades thrown at official cars in which young police officers were on duty. All this went on for 27 years, leading to 23 murders, to many people maimed in body or in spirit. Now, if the defendants are convicted, they will reap what they have sown, within the context of a trial that respects its role, with a presiding judge, judges and prosecutors who are polite, soft-spoken, often accommodating but always careful, so that the trial will proceed unerringly on the course of justice, as the laws and Constitution demand. These dark, shocking acts which spread death and became front-page news, are now being tried as felonies, as crimes of the penal code. After the reading of the charges came the turn of the defendants to proclaim, «I deny the charges.» One by one they stood up and spoke. Dimitris Koufodinas, the three Xeros brothers, the three Serifises, the two Papanastasiou cousins, and the rest, along with Angeliki Sotiropoulou – who declared that she «is serving time in advance, in the basement under the presiding judge’s chair» – all rejected the charges. They spoke of political action, of simple participation, of their anti-imperialist stand. Alexandros Yotopoulos’s words were similar to those written in November 17 proclamations. All of them stood «disarmed» in the witness stand, like emperors who had been found to have no clothes. Because the blood that had been spilled, and the way the victims were killed, demands explanations, not a manifesto. Young Thanos Axarlian fell dead, in a pool of his own blood, at the corner of Karageorgis Servias and Voulis streets when November 17 fired a rocket at the armor-plated car of Finance Minister Yiannis Palaiokrassas in July 1992. His mother, Stavroula Axarlian, is among the spectators at the trial… On Kifissias Avenue, the white car driven by Brig. Stephen Saunders as he went to work was caught in traffic. He was murdered. His wife and mother of their children, Heather Saunders, sits in the courtroom, listening silently, awaiting justice. On a composite image in the newspaper that she holds, she marks the faces of those whose names ring out from the charge sheet, along with the description of the murder. It is now the time for Justice. That is why Mrs Saunders is here, that is why she will testify. The rain keeps falling. All the blood that was shed seeks Justice.