NEWS

Lesperoglou, most wanted ‘terrorist,’ is found innocent

A man who had been one of Greece’s most sought after terrorist suspects while on the run for 17 years was cleared of all charges yesterday by an Athens court. Avraam Lesperoglou, 46, is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year term for draft-dodging and is expected to be freed soon. The three judges and four jurors voted unanimously to acquit Lesperoglou of being an accomplice to the murder of prosecutor Giorgos Theofanopoulos on April 1, 1985. They voted by 5-2 (with one judge and one juror dissenting) on the two separate counts relating to an armed robbery and a shootout between members of the Anti-State Struggle urban guerrilla group in which its leader, Christos Tsoutsouvis, died. Two security guards and three police officers were killed in the incidents that took place in May 1985. Friends attending the trial applauded. Among them were some who had spent long periods in custody on terrorism charges before their acquittal, including Giorgos Balafas, Makis Boukouvalas and Epaminondas Skyftoulis. Lesperoglou’s lawyers are expected to petition today for his draft-dodging sentence to be suspended. He has been in detention since his arrest at Athens Airport in December 1999. He had disappeared in 1982 after being accused of the attempted murder of a police officer. After his arrest, Lesperoglou was tried and convicted of failing to show up for military service, and he was convicted and later acquitted of the 1982 shooting. Now he has been cleared of the most serious charges. He argued during all his trials that he was being victimized by police so that the Palestinian movement, of which he was a supporter, could be harmed. Earlier yesterday, prosecutor Aikaterini Pistoli had asked the court to find Lesperoglou guilty of involvement in the murder of Theofanopoulos, on the basis of testimony given in 1985 by a police officer who had declared that he had seen the defendant at the wheel of the getaway car. In court he did not recognize Lesperoglou, saying he had suffered a stroke in the intervening 16 years. Pistoli also pointed to the fact that Lesperoglou’s fingerprints were found in a house that Tsoutsouvis used. Turning to the defendant, she said, It is a fact that there are indications that touch on certainty. But this ‘touch’ alone is enough to force me to propose your acquittal. It is better that a guilty man go free than that an innocent one go to prison. New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis proclaimed, ‘the government that has emerged, after a five-month period in which the country was ungoverned, is not up to the demands of the Greek people.’