NEWS

‘Terrorist’ Lesperoglou wins early release

The man who during his 17 years on the run topped Greece’s list of terrorism suspects walked free yesterday after securing early release from a draft-dodging sentence. Two weeks ago, an Athens court cleared alleged 1980s terrorist Avraam Lesperoglou of any involvement in a series of shootings 16 years ago. My life can get off to a new start now, Lesperoglou, 46, told journalists after a military court accepted a plea for his release, as he had served three fifths of a 3.5-year prison term. I believe that my acquittal showed up the entire set-up by the authorities who drew up lists of terrorism charges in the ’80s, he added. My justification was their condemnation. The suspected member of the leftist Anti-State Struggle group – who spent many of his years on the run in the Netherlands – was arrested at Athens airport in late 1999 for attempting to enter Greece with a forged passport. He was quickly jailed for draft-dodging, pending his arraignment for more serious charges, including involvement in the killing of prosecutor Giorgos Theofanopoulos – an armed robbery in which two security guards were shot dead – and a shootout during which three policemen (and one alleged terrorist) died. All the incidents took place in Athens in 1985. But an Athens court cleared Lesperoglou last month, after a series of prosecution witnesses either refused to testify or retracted their initial testimonies of 16 years ago. Among the friends and sympathizers who cheered Lesperoglou upon his release was Giorgos Balafas, another supposed 1980s terrorist acquitted in court during the mid-1990s. This feels like a second justification for me, Balafas commented.