NEWS

Inadequate police procedures, mislaid evidence

Much of the process of dismantling November 17 was set in motion by the laboratories of the police force’s Criminology Research Department. Finger and palm prints, DNA examination results, laboratory tests of keys found in the possession of those arrested, graphology tests, ballistics tests and the examination of tools largely provided the evidence to back up the charges against most of those arrested. Officials from the research department have been the only police officers to give evidence in court, detailing the methods used to evaluate the evidence. One indication of the work done in the laboratory is the fact that a fingerprint 30 years old was found on a document in the Patmou hideout. Only a small percentage of the fingerprints found in both hideouts have been identified. There are hundreds of «orphaned» fingerprints at the laboratory, including the one found at the Damareos hideout which has been identified with one found at the home of Alexandros Yotopoulos, the alleged leader of November 17, on the island of Leipsoi. DNA examinations have yielded two unidentified samples of genetic material, one from a man and the other from a woman. The laboratories have equipment for analyzing mitochondrial DNA; it enables them to analyze a hair without a root, which was not previously possible. The lack of organization and consistency in the investigation of terrorism in preceding years made it difficult to use the modern laboratory equipment to full effect. Many items of evidence which had been connected with terrorism no longer exist. The famous «Parnitha file» is the most typical example. It was a collection of typed and handwritten notes connected with November 17 that was found in 1975. When the police wanted to use the file in connection with new evidence, they discovered that nobody knew where it was. Only a few of the documents in the file were found, and they were the ones that had been sent for graphology tests. Senior police officials talk about their predecessors’ amateurish approach to evidence from the scene of terrorist attacks. And they say that if evidence had been collected in the past as methodically as it is nowadays, and if there had been an organized archive of evidence, the task of identifying the evidence would have been easier and may have produced more evidence against the accused. As one senior police official remarked: «If someone had thought of keeping the box of sweets which November 17 members offered to police officer Christos Matis just before they murdered him during a robbery of a National Bank branch in Petralona on Christmas Eve 1984, we would have valuable evidence at our disposal today.» Sources say that defense counsel for the accused applied to a laboratory abroad to which they gave the police department’s reports on the graphology tests and fingerprints and asked for them and other examinations of evidence to be assessed to see if the results could be brought into question. The same sources say that 45,000 euros was spent on the process. However the laboratory replied that the results could not be challenged and so the matter was not mentioned in the trial.