N17 suspect terrifies witnesses

One prosecution witness had to take heart medication after a close encounter with defendant Savvas Xeros at the November 17 trial yesterday, while another was unable to finish her testimony for fear of undergoing a similar ordeal, and fainted on her way out of the courtroom. Xeros, 41, an icon-painter who allegedly served as one of the group’s main hit men, had been excused from attending yesterday’s session due to poor health. But when a witness of the November 1990 attempted killing of tycoon Vardis Vardinoyiannis in Nea Erythraia, northern Athens, said he had seen Xeros at the scene of the attack, presiding judge Michalis Margaritis summoned the suspect. After Ioannis Kanaris positively identified Xeros, Margaritis asked the defendant whether he recognized the witness. Xeros, whose eyesight has been severely impaired since a bomb exploded in his hands last July – prompting a series of arrests of suspected N17 terrorists – came nose-to-nose with the witness and subjected him to a long scrutiny. «I am terrified, Mr President,» a very pale Kanaris said. «I must admit that right now my heart is beating very fast.» As soon as he left the witness box, Kanaris took a heart pill. «What do you think you are doing?» Margaritis snapped at Xeros. «I saw how you were looking at him.» A second prosecution witness who had seen Kanaris’s ordeal, Georgia Anastassiou, was unable to complete her testimony. She was granted permission to leave, but collapsed in a faint on her way out. A third witness, taxi driver Zissis Vazoras, said he had driven Xeros from near the scene of the 1989 assassination of MP Pavlos Bakoyiannis to Ambelokipi. He recounted how, upon hearing of the attack on the radio, Xeros remarked: «Well, that’s him out of the way. Who is next?»