Tsigaridas describes ELA to court

The only one of five suspected Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) terrorists on trial in Athens to have admitted membership of the extreme left-wing group opened his court testimony yesterday by describing ELA as a loosely-knit grouping of autonomous cells. Christos Tsigaridas, a 64-year-old Athens architect, denied any operational role in ELA’s attacks, claiming to have been in charge of propaganda instead. He insisted that he left the group in 1990 «for personal reasons,» and sought to clear all four of his fellow-defendants – three men and a woman – whom he described as innocent victims of police persecution and vindictiveness. «If you are wondering to what extent I have repented, I say that I will never repent for the revolutionary course I have pursued for almost half a century,» he told the court. «The only lost fight is that which has never taken place,» he added, drawing strong applause from the audience. This prompted presiding judge Elissavet Brilli to clear the courtroom. Tsigaridas, who was arrested early last year but released on bail a few months later due to poor health, was the first of the five suspects to take the stand. He described ELA, which killed two people in 20 years of action that ended in 1995, as consisting of «autonomous and self-reliant cells that were horizontally linked,» denying police claims that the group was run by a central council or an executive bureau. «There was no scope for playing the boss,» he said. Tsigaridas told the court he had been recruited in 1976 by Christos Kassimis, a suspected ELA founding member who died in an Athens shootout with police in 1977. He said he had been in charge of the Antipliroforissi (Counter-information) magazine, which was used by ELA. «I took part in mass mobilizations, we gathered funds and advised workers on practical matters,» he said. «I did not join in operations for practical reasons.» Tsigaridas will respond to court questions today. Meanwhile the Council of Appeals Court Judges yesterday indicted veteran trade unionist Yiannis Serifis – one of the four people acquitted in December of November 17 terrorism charges – to be tried for ELA membership.