Anger at claims in N17 appeal

Judges and prosecutors in the appeal of convicted members of the November 17 terrorist group yesterday reacted angrily to claims by defendants and their lawyers that the court is being influenced by pressure from the USA and Britain. The allegations were initially made by Ioanna Kourtovik, one of the defense lawyers in the case, and then backed up by one of her clients and November 17’s chief hit man Dimitris Koufodinas. «You are in an environment that is being pressured from many sides,» Koufodinas told the court, alleging that the United States and British governments were influencing the case, as well as Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras and former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis. Koufodinas received 13 life sentences plus 25 years in jail for his role in November 17’s murder of a total of 23 people, including Greek businessmen and foreign diplomats, over the course of 27 years. Koufodinas claimed that he was the victim of a «political trial.» The comments provoked a heated reaction from prosecutors. «I consider Mrs Kourtovik’s claims to be an insult to myself, the court and the other prosecutors,» said prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani. «Neither I nor this court has ever been pressured and nobody dares influence our judgment,» she added. «We have not been pressured at all and comments made in public, regardless of who makes them, do not affect us,» said the president of the five-judge court, Dionysis Vertelis. The trial began amid tight security in a specially built courtroom in the women’s wing of Korydallos Prison on Friday and is due to resume tomorrow so the judges can consider a number of procedural matters, including objections from the defendants’ lawyers today. Most of the 15 convicted members of the leftist terrorist group are appealing the jail sentences they received at a trial conducted in the same venue in December 2003.