N17’s alleged chief: ‘I was framed’

Alexandros Yotopoulos, the alleged mastermind behind November 17, yesterday denied that he belonged to the terrorist gang and claimed that he was the victim of a frame-up by American and British agents. But, in testimony in which he clashed with the prosecutor and lawyers for families of the group’s victims, he said he neither approved of nor condemned N17’s activities. Yotopoulos, 59, faces 963 charges, including that he was a founder of the group and its mastermind. N17 killed 23 people between its first attack in December 1975 and its collapse in the summer of 2002. Police say they found Yotopoulos’s fingerprints in hideouts and his handwriting on a draft proclamation claiming a murder in 1997. Some of the 19 alleged N17 members on trial have named Yotopoulos by the code name he allegedly used, Lambros. «I was not even a simple member of N17,» Yotopoulos said. «I do not agree with N17’s actions, nor do I condemn them. The organization’s activities constitute armed political struggle, which was aimed at toppling the system. Such activity that did not take place in a society of angels cannot be judged on the basis of the penal code,» he said, reading from notes. Yotopoulos, who was going under the assumed name Michalis Economou when he was arrested on the island of Leipsoi last summer, said that he had been set up by American and British agents who had known his name since 2000. He said he was chosen because his father, Dimitris Yotopoulos, was a well-known Trotskyite, he himself belonged to no political party and he had been in hiding since the collapse of the junta in 1974. He said that he was unlucky not to have been caught for his anti-junta activities. «Most resistance fighters became famous after being arrested and convicted,» he said. He had been using a false name because of his anti-dictatorship activities and had become known to friends as Michalis Economou in the meantime, he said. Yotopoulos claimed he was presented as the group’s leader so that it could appear that N17 had been wiped out. «The members of such an organization would never take orders from someone who did not take part in its activities on the front line,» he said. Yotopoulos claimed that fellow defendant Patroklos Tselentis had named him «so that he can get a reduced sentence.» He added, «These are fairy tales and underhanded methods.» He rejected testimony by Sotiris Kondylis that he and other N17 members used to meet in tavernas and bouzouki dives, saying no conspiratorial group would take such risks. He said his fingerprints had been placed in hideouts by police. He refused to reply to questions by Ilias Anagnostopoulos who is representing the families of American victims of N17. He also initially refused to answer questions by prosecutor Christos Lambrou. «You have convicted me already. You are a remnant of a Greece that is gone,» Yotopoulos said. «But your insults are titles of honor for us.» The trial continues today with more questioning of Yotopoulos.

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