Police’s N17 ‘fiasco’ shelved

After making a brief but noisy splash in the November 17 trial last week, one of the most controversial aspects of the counterterrorism authorities’ 27-year struggle to catch the extreme left-wing group was consigned to oblivion yesterday. In March 1992, 10 years before the group’s downfall, a female informant apparently lured by the substantial cash bounty offered for the N17 terrorists told police some group members would be meeting on Louisis Riancourt Street in Ambelokipi, central Athens, after an attack on a judge. The tip proved accurate, although there was no attack, but the terrorists escaped. The authorities did not interrogate the informant, whom the police chief of the day named as Athens resident Maria Tsinteri. According to Stephanos Makris, Tsinteri was paid 13 million drachmas (38,000 euros). In court last week, Tsinteri denied that she had been the informant, while N17 defendants claimed the affair was a police plot to grab the reward. Yesterday, presiding judge Michalis Margaritis released the results of laboratory tests that found Tsinteri’s voice did not match that of the informant, as recorded on police tapes. Lab officials, however, said they were not present when the recent sample of Tsinteri’s voice was recorded. The court rejected a defense plea for police officials involved in the 1992 operation – which Margaritis last week dismissed as a «fiasco» – to be called to testify anew, as the affair is not of immediate concern in the 19 defendants’ trial. Police sources said the tapes of the informant’s calls were kept by Makris himself, instead of being preserved in the force’s archives. Defense witnesses started testifying yesterday. The brother of defendant Constantinos Telios said the Salonica schoolteacher had wanted to leave N17 but feared for his life.