Judge orders short recess in N17 trial

The presiding judge, barely containing his frustration at the delay, ordered a two-day break in the trial of suspected members of the November 17 terrorist gang when defense lawyers of most of the 19 suspects walked out to protest what they called the arbitrary continued detention of one defendant. «Due to force majeure, the trial will resume on Wednesday,» judge Michalis Margaritis said. «November 17 has benefited us greatly over all these years,» he added sarcastically. «You’ll see what happens when the 18-month limit for pretrial detention is reached and the country is embarrassed.» This would be in December for the first suspects arrested. But 27 lawyers were not there to hear Margaritis, as only those representing penitent, confessed N17 members Patroklos Tselentis and Costas Telios were still in court. Dimitris Koufodinas, suspected of being N17’s chief operative, accused Margaritis of «not acting as an impartial judge but as an ideological rival.» To this the judge replied, «I judge as a citizen and member of Greek society.» Anestis Papanastasiou, the last defendant to be arrested, appeared to disagree with the lawyers’ walkout, even though it was in protest at a prosecutor’s ordering him to stay in detention beyond the initial seven-month period stipulated by law. A panel of judges is to rule today on whether to extend his detention. «For me, the main issue is for the procedure to end as quickly as possible. The competent Council of Appeals Court Judges has to take its decision without the slightest pressure,» Papanastasiou, a 41-year-old bank clerk, said. Prosecutor Christos Lambrou took his cue from this. «Mr Papanastasiou showed how the defense lawyers have taken the law into their own hands,» he declared. «He has stripped their decision of every moral and legal basis.» Lambrou proposed the recess instead of Margaritis’s initial threat to appoint new counsel. But he said it would be the last concession to the defendants. «Do they think that because Mr Koufodinas’s. 45 automatic and the State’s inadequacies allowed him to act with impunity for so many years, the State will remain inactive now?» he demanded.