ELA four get 25 years

After an eight-month trial, a special court in the top-security Korydallos Prison yesterday sentenced three men and one woman to 25 years’ imprisonment each – the maximum possible – for involvement in a string of terrorist attacks carried out by the extreme-left wing Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) 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, were taken to prison as the three-judge criminal appeals court rejected a defense plea for all four to be freed pending appeals. The court added 202 years to the 972-year sentences proposed for each of the defendants last Thursday by public prosecutor Eleftherios Patsis. However, each 1,174-year term was boiled down to a compound sentence of 25 years. Each of the four was also fined 22,000 euros. ELA killed two people in a string of attacks on mainly police and US-linked targets between the mid-1970s and January 1995, when the group announced it was ceasing operations. The four convicted ELA members were arrested in early 2003, seven months after police embarked on a string of arrests that led to the conviction of 15 people for participation in November 17, the largest and deadliest of the left-wing groups that sprung up in the years after the collapse of the 1967-74 military dictatorship. A fifth suspect, civil servant Michalis Kassimis, 59, was acquitted. Tsigaridas – the only defendant to have admitted ELA membership – Kanas, Agapiou and Athanassaki 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. Tsigaridas, Kanas and Athanassaki were also convicted of obtaining and possessing bombs and explosives. Before announcing the sentences yesterday, presiding judge Elissavet Brilli also rejected a defense plea to have Patsis replaced. Defense lawyers had complained that the penalties the prosecutor had sought were too strict. In August, Brilli had remarked that the prosecution’s evidence was «most insufficient,» adding that political pressure to have the trial over with before the August 13-29 Olympics had compromised the defendants’ rights.