ELA sentencing delayed

The sentencing of four people found guilty of involvement in Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) left-wing terrorist attacks was deferred yesterday to Monday, at the earliest, after the prosecutor quarreled with a defense lawyer. Earlier, public prosecutor Eleftherios Patsis had called for architect Christos Tsigaridas, 64, electrician and former Kimolos mayor Angeletos Kanas, 52, civil engineer Costas Agapiou, 56, and travel agency employee Irini Athanassaki, 50, to be jailed for a total of 972 years each, and a 27,900-euro fine. But even if the three criminal appeals court judges accept all the prosecutor’s recommendations, sentencing guidelines stipulate that individual terms cannot exceed 25 years. ELA killed two people in dozens of attacks between the mid-1970s and 1995, when it disbanded. On Wednesday, the court found Tsigaridas, Kanas, Agapiou and Athanassaki 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. The four – who were arrested in early 2003 – were also convicted of obtaining and possessing explosives. A fifth defendant, civil servant Michalis Kassimis, 58, was acquitted. In a bizarre twist, the ELA four escaped conviction for participation in the group, as, due to the fact that ELA suspended operations in 1995, draconian anti-terrorism legislation passed in 2001 could not be applied to them retroactively. Under previous legislation, membership of a terrorist group was a simple misdemeanor with a five-year statute of limitation, which expired in 2000. Patsis called for sentences of 17 years for Vellios’s killing, 10 years for each of the attempted murders, 10 to 11 years for each of the bombings, and 12 years for each of the explosives cases. The fines were for the bomb attacks. Defense lawyers complained that the suggested penalties were too severe. Alexis Kougias, representing Kanas, described the prosecutor’s recommendations as «inhuman.» A heated exchange ensued, which ended in Kougias demanding Patsis’s replacement. This will be discussed on Monday, as today’s session was deferred. Meanwhile yesterday, a convicted hit man for the November 17 left-wing terrorist group, Dimitris Koufodinas, was hospitalized following a 19-day hunger strike for better detention conditions.