After Nov. 17, ELA’s day in court nears

A council of judges is today expected to issue indictments against five people accused of being members of the Popular Revolutionary Struggle (ELA) group, two days after 15 members of the November 17 gang were sentenced to long prison terms in the first major terrorism trial in Greece. The Council of Appeal Courts Judges indictment is expected to open the way for the trial of architect Christos Tsigaridas, 64, civil engineer Costas Agapiou, 56, former Kimolos mayor Angeletos Kanas, 52, tourist agency employee Irene Athanassaki, 48, and civil servant Michalis Kassimis, 58, to begin in February. They are accused of involvement in attacks carried out by ELA and its sister group, May 1, up to 1995. Sources said the plenum of appeals court judges will today vote to elect a pool of 30 judges from which the three judges and three substitutes will be chosen for the ELA trial. ELA was far less lethal than N17, usually carrying out symbolic bombings. However, an offshoot, May 1, was more deadly. Their attacks include the 1994 killing of senior police officer Apostolos Vellios, the 1989 assassination of Supreme Court prosecutor Anastassios Vernardos, 17 attempted murders and 59 bomb attacks. In August, appeals court prosecutor Antonis Mytis recommended to the judges’ council that the five should stand trial, while no action should be taken against another five. The latter are Angeliki Sotiropoulou and Yiannis Serifis (who were acquitted of membership of N17 but will be retried after the trial prosecutor appealed against this verdict); Costas Telios, who was given a 25-year sentence for being a member of N17 but was released yesterday pending his appeal; Kanas’s estranged first wife, Sofia Kyriakidou, the prosecution’s chief witness; and Epaminondas Skyftoulis, a defense witness for N17’s convicted mastermind, Alexandros Yotopoulos. Mytis’s report said ELA was created in the summer of 1974 and had set up autonomous smaller groups such as May 1, Popular Struggle, Red Initiative, October 80, Christos Kassimis Revolutionary Group and Autonomous Cells. He did not refer to ELA’s alleged links with international terrorism. Tsigaridas, who has been released conditionally because of health problems, is the only suspect to acknowledge being a member of ELA, claiming «political responsibility» but saying that he pulled out of the group in 1990. Kanas, Agapiou and Athanassaki are in pre-trial detention. Meanwhile, lawyers for Yotopoulos, Dimitris Koufodinas and Vassilis Tzortzatos claimed yesterday that the N17 trial was unjust.