Judgment day for N17

A bloody chapter in Greece’s modern history will end today when Judge Michalis Margaritis will read out the sentences of 15 men convicted of being members of the November 17 terrorist gang. Margaritis and two assistants will make public their decision at 9 a.m. today, in the specially built court room in Korydallos Prison where the trial of 19 defendants began on March 3. Prosecutor Christos Lambrou, whose proposal the court will not necessarily follow, has proposed an unprecedented number of life sentences for six of the 15 convicted members and thousands of years of imprisonment. November 17 is accused of killing 23 people from its first appearance in late 1975 to its last murder in June 2000. Because of the 20-year statute of limitations, murders before 1984 were not tried by this court. Under Greek law, one life term is equal to a 25-year term and a convict may apply for parole after 16 years. If sentenced to more than one life term, he or she must serve at least 20 years before being eligible for parole. Other sentences will run concurrently, with 25-year terms being the maximum and with parole possible after three-fifths of this term are served. The prosecutor proposed that Alexandros Yotopoulos, convicted of being the gang’s mastermind, receive 21 life terms; Dimitris Koufodinas, N17’s chief of operations, 13 life terms; Christodoulos Xeros 10; Savvas Xeros six; Vassilitis Tzortzatos four;  Iraklis Kostaris one. Lambrou proposed lesser sentences for another nine, acknowledging extenuating circumstances in four. A nationwide poll published yesterday in Eleftherotypia daily shows a large majority of Greeks (79.6 percent of the sample) believe the accused had a fair trial. In March, 53.5 percent of those polled by VPRC expected a fair trial. Also, 69.4 percent do not believe that any of those found guilty are in fact innocent and just over half feel the sentences requested by the prosecution are not unjust. However, over half (52.6 percent) disagreed with the decision to acquit four of the accused. By the end of the trial, 57.7 percent felt that Yotopoulos, who denies any involvement, was probably N17’s mastermind. Some 61.6 percent said terrorist groups like N17 were a major problem and another 22.2 percent said they were quite a serious problem. As to whether the group’s crimes were political, 36.7 percent agreed while 48.9 percent said they were likely common crimes.