Dimitris Koufodinas, a key member of the November 17 extreme left terrorist group that killed 23 people, including foreign diplomats, in politically motivated attacks between 1975 and 2002, was released on 48-hour furlough on Thursday.
The decision to grant temporary release to the convict, who has been found guilty for his role in 11 assassinations, sparked a public outcry and comes just over a week before the anniversary of the 1973 student uprising against the military dictatorship that inspired the November 17 movement and its name.
Criticism of the decision came from across the political spectrum on Thursday, including from Dora Bakoyannis, a prominent MP for opposition New Democracy and the wife of one of the group’s victims. “Koufodinas’s 48-hour leave is a symbolic act because the government needed to support its leftist claims,” she told Skai TV.
“He isn’t just any terrorist. He was a leader, the ideological guide, the guy who wrote a book who said that after the murder (of Bakoyannis) he went to a taverna and celebrated. While my children were crying,” she said.
Her youngest daughter also expressed anger at the decision, saying that Koufodinas has not only failed to show any remorse for his actions, but gloated about them and “is inclined to do the same again.”
“Koufodinas is not the only one with rights. I have rights too and so does the mother of Axarlian,” Alexia Bakoyannis had told Skai TV earlier on Thursday in reference to the 22-year-old Thanos Axarlian who was killed in 1992 in a botched rocket attack on the economy minister at the time.
“Today we are witnessing our country’s biggest terrorist, an unrepentant killer, the gun of November 17, walking out of prison on leave,” New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted on Thursday after photographs emerged of Koufodinas leaving the capital’s Korydallos Prison in the company of his family.
Defending the controversial decision by prison authorities to grant Koufodinas furlough for the first time in 15 years, the union of prison workers issued a statement on Thursday saying that all inmates are entitled to leave if they have shown good behavior during their incarceration.
“Dimitris Koufodinas got the leave that he is entitled to and would have certainly gotten it sooner had it not been for Christodoulos Xiros violating the terms of furlough,” the announcement said in reference to an escape attempt by another November 17 convict who dropped off authorities’ radar while on furlough in January 2014 and was arrested a year later.
“In all these years, Dimitris Koufodinas has not once committed a disciplinary violation in prison and fulfills all of the criteria for being eligible for furlough, in our opinion,” the statement added.
Under the terms of his release, the 59-year-old former beekeepr will have to report twice a day to his local precinct.