Petsalnikos rules out extraditions

Greece will not, under any circumstances, extradite any of the November 17 defendants to the United States «or any other country,» Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos told Kathimerini yesterday. US, British and Turkish nationals were assassinated by the November 17 terrorists during the group’s 27-year period of activity (1975-2002). Some of these crimes, such as the assassination of CIA station chief in Athens Richard Welch, in December 1975, have passed the statute of limitations under Greek law, but suspects can still be prosecuted in the US. Defendant Pavlos Serifis, in his pre-trial testimony – which he later recanted – admitted being present at the scene of Welch’s murder and named November 17 leader Alexandros Yotopoulos and his relative, Yiannis Serifis – who was acquitted at the trial – as participants. According to police sources, Yotopoulos, who was arrested in mid-July 2002, was, in the hours following his arrest, visibly nervous and certain he would be handed over to American agents. Yotopoulos, who persisted in his denial of all charges, was visibly relaxed when he was brought before a Greek prosecutor, the same sources said. Petsalnikos told Kathimerini that a bilateral agreement signed in 1931 with the US prevents the extradition of suspects already tried or whose alleged crimes fall under the statute of limitations. US authorities have refrained from commenting on the issue, so far. Petsalnikos added that the trial itself, which has lasted over nine months, proved that «democracy does not seek revenge, but simply sees to it that justice is administered.» He refused to comment on a recent declaration by Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis that more arrests, mainly of second-tier November 17 members, could follow. The justice minister defended the decision to ban TV cameras from the court, saying it contributed to a «sober climate» in the courtroom and prevented the danger of everyday «mock trials» on television.