N17 leader storms from court

The convicted leader of the November 17 terrorist group, Alexandros Yotopoulos, yesterday walked out of the court in Korydallos Prison claiming that the judges had decided to reject his appeal before the trial began. «I will not legalize this predetermined conviction with my presence,» said Yotopoulos. «I am withdrawing from the process and I am rescinding the instructions I gave to my lawyers to represent me,» he told the court’s five judges. Yotopoulos said that he would continue to work to clear his name. He also accused Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis of acting as a «yes-man» and ordering the police to fabricate new evidence to give to prosecutors. Yotopoulos received 21 life sentences plus 25 years for his participation in the group, which killed 23 people between 1973 and 2000. The 61-year-old has denied that he was a member of the group since he was arrested in 2000 on the remote Aegean island of Leipsoi where he had been living under the assumed name Michalis Economou. One of his three lawyers, Yiannis Rouchiotis, told Kathimerini that Yotopoulos believed that he was not going to get a fair trail. He said this was evident from the pressure that US Ambassador Charles Ries had allegedly put on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to make sure the convictions of all N17 members were upheld. Rouchiotis insisted that his client had told him from the start of the appeal trial, on Dec. 2, that he disagreed with the group’s actions but refused to denounce N17. The court is now likely to assign three lawyers to defend Yotopoulos in his absence. It was not clear if the appeal will resume today as the hearing is likely to be held up for a while due to the administrative problems created by his decision to walk out. Meanwhile, the judges yesterday ruled that the group’s actions could not be classed as being politically motivated and rejected an appeal by defendants for N17’s ideology to be accepted as a mitigating factor in their trial.