N17 appeals trial opens amid massive security

Convicted members of the November 17 terrorist group yesterday faced an Athens court to appeal the multiple life sentences handed down to them two years ago. The trial opened amid draconian security measures, as hundreds of witnesses and relatives of the group’s victims took their seats in a special court in Korydallos Prison, where most N17 convicts are serving their sentences. Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, whose husband – a conservative MP – was killed by the group in 1989, and the widow of British Defense Attache Stephen Saunders, assassinated in 2000, were among those present. Lawyers involved in the trial protested against being put through security checks before entering the courtroom but their appeal was overruled by the five-judge court. The presiding judge asked all present to «remain patient and contribute to a calm climate during the trial.» But it was the statements made during breaks in the court proceedings that caused the greatest stirs. The group’s leader Alexandros Yotopoulos insisted that there was no evidence to prove his guilt. «My conviction was ridiculous and unreasonable… politically motivated and due to foreign blackmail,» he told reporters. «If the court is at all fair, it has only one option – to acquit me.» During another break, N17’s chief hit man Dimitris Koufodinas declared: «This is a political trial. The system wants to… secure the political and ideological defeat of the ideas and vision of the revolutionary Left.» Reporters noted some iciness between Koufodinas and Yotopoulos, deemed by some as evidence of a rift that may lead to new insights in the case.