Four found guilty of ELA terror attacks

Four of the five suspects in the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) terrorism trial were yesterday found guilty of attacks carried out by the extreme-left-wing group following a nine-month trial, but judges dismissed many of the more serious charges due to lack of sufficient evidence. And in a peculiar legal twist, none could be convicted of ELA membership. The three criminal appeals court judges trying the five suspects – all aged over 49 – in the special Korydallos Prison courtroom where the November 17 terrorism trial was held in 2003 acquitted civil servant Michalis Kassimis, 58, of any involvement in the group. Architect Christos Tsigaridas, 64, electrician and former Kimolos mayor Angeletos Kanas, 52, civil engineer Costas Agapiou, 56, and travel agency employee Irini Athanassaki, 50 – who are all free on bail – were judged to have been ELA members up until 1995. The sentences are expected to be announced today. But all four were acquitted of remaining part of the group until their arrests in early 2003, as the court ruled that ELA was disbanded in January 1995. As a result, the draconian penalties for simple group membership foreseen by the 2001 anti-terrorism law could not be enforced against them. As, under previous legislation, the charge ranked as a simple misdemeanor – for which there is a five-year statute of limitation that expired in 2000 – none could be convicted of group membership. All four, however, were found guilty of complicity in the 1994 assassination of police officer Apostolos Vellios, as well as in 48 attempted murders and 42 bomb attacks and attempted bombings. In Athanassaki’s case, the decision was reached with a 2-1 majority. Tsigaridas – the only defendant to have admitted group membership – Kanas and Athanassaki were also convicted of obtaining and possessing bombs and explosives. The court rejected clemency pleas by Kanas, as well as by Tsigaridas, who argued that he had been driven by «political» motives. ELA killed two people in dozens of attacks between 1983 and 1995.