Court hears widow of last N17 victim

Three women held center stage during yesterday’s session of the November 17 terrorism trial, during which prosecution witnesses testified in connection with the group’s last deadly hit, the Athens 2000 assassination of British military attache Stephen Saunders. The 10th week of the trial opened with the testimony of Brigadier Saunders’s widow, Heather, who told the court her husband’s suspected killers were «not even worth looking at.» «I don’t hate them,» she said. «I would dearly love to know what they think they have achieved with my husband’s murder.» N17’s alleged top two hit men, beekeeper Dimitris Koufodinas, 45, and icon-painter Savvas Xeros, 41, have been charged with the June 8 morning killing on busy Kifissias Avenue. Saunders was assassinated as he drove his car to work, unaccompanied by any security guards. As he was stopped at the traffic lights, two men drew up alongside on a motorbike and shot him five times with a stolen army rifle and a handgun. «I don’t want these people put up against a wall and shot,» she said. «I think they should be given stiff prison sentences and denied their freedom.» And she pointed out that, contrary to N17’s claims that Brigadier Saunders was involved in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, her husband was not even in the air force and had privately expressed doubts about the Kosovo campaign. «My husband was a perfectly innocent man, but was denied, two months ahead of retirement, of walking his two daughters down the aisle one day,» she added, as the teenage girls listened from the courtroom’s benches. Saunders was followed on the witness stand by Theodosia Mania, who said she had seen Koufodinas and the only female suspect, beekeeper Angeliki Sotiropoulou – Koufodinas’s partner whom he married in prison – near the scene of the attack on the eve of Saunders’s death, checking out the lay of the land. When presiding judge Michalis Margaritis asked Sotiropoulou to approach the stand to let the witness see her clearly, the defendant angrily refused. «If I come nearer, I will beat her up,» Sotiropoulou said. «You have never seen me in your life,» she shouted at Manias. «Shame on you.»

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