Three N17 defendants testify

A record three of the 19 November 17 defendants testified in court yesterday, two of whom denied any link with the left-wing terrorist group. The third, brewery employee and trade unionist Sotiris Kondylis, 42, confessed to participation in the 1991 shootout with police in Sepolia, central Athens, the 1994 assassination of Turkish diplomat Omer Sipahioglu and the 1996 anti-tank missile attack on the US Embassy in Athens. Kondylis, who first confessed just after his August 2002 arrest, said he had been introduced to N17 by fellow-defendant Christodoulos Xeros, a 45-year-old maker of musical instruments whom he met at a 1990 Athens demonstration, but was initially unaware of whom he was dealing with. Kondylis told the three-judge criminal court – which started proceedings on March 3 in a specially built courtroom inside Korydallos Prison, where 17 of the suspects are being held – that he would never have willingly joined the group as at the time all left-wingers believed N17 was deeply involved with Greek and foreign secret services. The penny dropped after the Sepolia incident, when the press reported that N17 was involved. Kondylis said he left the group in 1996. In his testimony, Kondylis also provided a tenuous link with suspected N17 mastermind Alexandros Yotopoulos. «We met several times between 1993-96 in Exarcheia rebetiko music halls,» he said. «He introduced himself as Lambros, and although we never talked about the group’s activities, I knew all the people I was with were connected [with N17].» Police claim Lambros was Yotopoulos’s standard alias in the group. Suspects Pavlos Serifis, a 47-year-old telephone operator at an Athens children’s hospital, and Nikos Papanastasiou, a 51-year-old ceramics artist, denied all charges. Serifis has retracted his initial confession.