NEWS

In Brief

PENSION REFORMS

PM requests parliamentary debate in bid to stop talk about scandal Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has requested an unscheduled parliamentary debate on pension reforms as his government seeks to move the focus of national attention away from the Zachopoulos affair. Karamanlis wrote to Parliament Speaker Dimitris Sioufas asking for a discussion on the reforms to be urgently arranged. Karamanlis is also due today to chair a meeting of his Inner Cabinet, which is expected to discuss the government’s reform program. TERROR RELEASE Convicted member of extreme group out after less than four years in jail A man handed a 25-year prison term for his involvement in extreme left-wing group Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) was released from prison yesterday after serving three years of his sentence. Costas Agapiou applied for early release on the grounds he had been acquitted of similiar crimes in another case. Agapiou was one of four members of ELA convicted of more than 100 crimes, including dozens of bomb attacks and attempted murders in October 2004. He is required to report twice a month to a local police station. Initially, it was thought he would be eligible for parole after serving the first 10 years of his sentence. ATHENS-ANKARA Violations continue ahead of visit Turkish fighter jets violated Greek air space over the Aegean 12 times yesterday, the Defense Ministry said, as diplomats met at the Foreign Ministry to plan Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s trip to Ankara later this month. Karamanlis is due to travel to Turkey on January 23 for a three-day trip but relations between the two countries have been strained in recent weeks after reports in Turkey alleging that Greek fishermen are crossing into Turkish waters near the Imia islets. The Defense Ministry in Athens said that a Turkish coast guard boat crossed into Greek waters on Sunday and damaged Greek fishermen’s nets. Suspects remanded Six of the eight suspects arrested in Crete recently in connection to a spate of local bank heists were remanded in custody on Friday, police said yesterday. Some of the suspects have also been connected to the shooting of a policeman in the mountainous Cretan village of Zoniana at the start of November. Two of the suspects were freed after paying bail of 20,000 euros and 25,000 euros, respectively, as police said evidence gathered so far showed they were not closely linked to the bank robberies. Illegal immigrants Authorities on Samos were yesterday questioning a 23-year-old Turkish national believed to have tried to smuggle 13 illegal immigrants into the country from neighboring Turkey. Port authority officials detained the 23-year-old on Sunday after spotting him in an inflatable dinghy close to the island. Authorities had been briefed by locals who reported seeing a fisherman in danger. Also on Sunday, authorities in Patras detained 11 would-be migrants found hidden in the back of truck about to leave for Italy. Back to school Primary and secondary school students will head back to the classroom today as lessons resume after the Christmas break. School buildings in the area of Leonidio, southeastern Peloponnese, were given the green light by officials after safety checks were made yesterday following Sunday’s strong earthquake. Urban transport Greece is forming a committee to examine ways of improving commuter travel as the European Union prepares to hold a dialogue on traffic congestion, which is estimated to cost its 27 member states a total of about 100 billion euros a year. The Transport Ministry said yesterday that the 11-member panel would gather information and suggestions from various bodies on how to improve urban mobility ahead of the start of EU discussions in March. One of the areas that the committee, which is expected to meet within the next few days, will discuss is the possibility of introducing congestion charging.