20th N17 suspect held

Nearly a year after police cracked open the November 17 terrorist organization, leading to the current trial of 19 suspects, a 42-year-old graphic artist was arrested yesterday and charged with being a member of the gang. Police said they did not believe the suspect to be in the first rank of members who allegedly took part in murders. Costas Avramidis’s fingerprints were found in a book on urban guerrilla warfare in one of the group’s hideouts. Police tied him to November 17 after running a fingerprint check on him after his arrest during violence at a recent demonstration. He was detained as he left his home in Zografou, Athens, at 7.30 a.m. yesterday. Prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos charged Avramidis and gave him until tomorrow to prepare his reply. Yesterday the suspect denied all connection with November 17 and his lawyer, Costas Papadakis, claimed his client was being persecuted for his political beliefs. A senior police source said Avramidis has long been a close friend of Dimitris Koufodinas, who is believed to have been November 17’s chief of operations. Both were born in villages in the Kilkis area of northern Greece (Avramidis at Palaio Aghioneri) and were friends at university. Avramidis, a married father of two, wanted to testify for the defense at the November 17 suspects’ trial but was dissuaded by defense lawyers. Recently, he visited the island of Icaria, where suspect Christodoulos Xeros lived, to speak in support of the defendants in the trial. Police believe Avramidis is the man known as «Costas the Pontian» as referred to by Savvas Xeros, the icon painter who was the first November 17 suspect to fall into their hands last June, and Sotiris Kondylis, a self-confessed member of the gang who said that «a Costas known as the ‘Pontian’» had introduced him to Koufodinas, who recruited him. «Pontian» refers to people who are descended from Greek refugees from the Black Sea region. Avramidis studied civil engineering and is employed by the Technical Chamber of Greece, working in its data bank. He never practiced as an engineer, working as a graphic artist and builder instead. Police believe Avramidis served in auxiliary roles, perhaps recruiting members. «But he may have taken part in some robbery,» the police source said. If Avramidis is sent to trial, he will be the 20th defendant. He will not be tried with the others, whose trial in Korydallos Prison began March 3.