November 17 mastermind and 14 others convicted, 4 acquitted

Fifteen defendants, including the man believed to have been the terrorist group’s mastermind, were yesterday convicted of being members of November 17 and of involvement in its 27-year spree of murder, explosions and robberies. Four defendants, including the only woman on trial, were acquitted. The verdict, after a nine-month trial in a specially built courtroom in top-security Korydallos Prison, appeared to seal the fate of the gang that had claimed 23 lives between late 1975 and June 2000. But it also left unanswered a series of important questions, such as whether others were involved who had not been brought to justice. The three-judge appeals court gave prosecutor Christos Lambrou until tomorrow to prepare his proposal for sentences. Several defendants face the possibility of receiving several life terms. They include the French-born translator Alexandros Yotopoulos, 59, who was found guilty of 961 of the 963 charges he faced – in effect being blamed for almost every activity N17 was ever involved in. Yotopoulos has denied the charges. Yesterday he declared, «The Greece of (Prime Minister Costas) Simitis is a modern colony of the United States.» The government was relieved by the trial’s end. «Greek society can be proud, because democracy defeated terrorism,» government spokesman Christos Protopapas commented. «The procedure was carried out flawlessly and with respect for the detainees’ human rights.» The opposition New Democracy party said, «Justice has done its duty.» But spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos added, «Terrorism is a war against democracy and so the struggle against it is never-ending.» Four US officials were among N17’s victims, including Richard Welch, the CIA station chief who was the group’s first victim in December 1975. Because of a 20-year statute of limitations, his and three other murders were not covered in the trial. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher welcomed the guilty verdicts and refused to say whether Washington would seek extraditions. Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said Greeks cannot be extradited for crimes in Greece.