ELA suspects’ trial begins today

Less than two months after Greece’s first major terrorism trial ended with long sentences for 15 defendants, five suspected members of the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) go on trial today in the same Korydallos Prison courtroom in which the November 17 case was heard. ELA began operations in 1975, a few months before the deadlier N17 gang. ELA suspects were arrested in January 2003. In December, the Council of Appeals Court Judges issued indictments against architect Christos Tsigaridas, 64, civil engineer Costas Agapiou, 56, electrician and former Kimolos Mayor Angeletos Kanas, 52, travel agency employee Irene Athanassaki, 48, and civil servant Michalis Kassimis, 58. They are charged with involvement in a criminal organization, procuring and possessing explosives and weapons, and involvement in 82 terrorist acts including the murders of Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Anastassios Vernardos in 1989 and senior police officer Apostolos Velios in 1994 and the attempted murder of General Confederation of Greek Labor President Giorgos Raftopoulos in 1987. The council ordered further investigations into Yiannis Serifis, who was acquitted in December of involvement in N17, and Epaminondas Skyftoulis, who testified in defense of Alexandros Yotopoulos, convicted of being N17’s mastermind. The only witness for the prosecution is Sofia Kyriakidou, Kanas’s former wife. He claims that she framed him. Tsigaridas is the only suspect to have admitted involvement in the gang but claims he left it on Feb. 20, 1990 because of health problems. Unlike the insular N17 group, ELA had offshoots such as Popular Struggle, Red Initiative and May 1. Files of the defunct East German security police, the Stasi, suggest ELA’s cooperation with international terror gangs.