NEWS

Savvas Xeros joins Nov17 suspects in jail

Savvas Xeros, the 40-year-old icon painter who set off the great unraveling of the November 17 terrorist group when he was seriously injured by a bomb he was carrying in Piraeus more than two months ago, was jailed in Korydallos Prison yesterday. He joins 15 other suspected gang members awaiting trial. Savvas and two of his brothers, Christodoulos and Vassilis, are among 13 suspects who have confessed to their membership in the group and expressed penitence. Savvas Xeros had been in Athens’s Evangelismos Hospital since his injury on June 29. He was the first November 17 suspect to be arrested after 23 murders and 27 years of fruitless investigations. His statements to police led to the arrest of another 14 suspects, including alleged founder and mastermind Alexandros Yotopoulos, and the discovery of most of the gang’s weapons in two hideouts in Athens. With Savvas Xeros’s jailing, the first part of the investigation into domestic terrorism in general comes to a close. The only named November 17 suspect still at large is alleged senior operative Dimitris Koufodinas, who was with Xeros in Piraeus and therefore had plenty of time to get away. The investigation is now focusing on the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) and other gangs involved in a range of activities, from murders to explosions caused by gas cannisters. The flurry of arrests in early July has given way to painstaking investigations as authorities work to build foolproof cases against new suspects. This has prompted some critics to charge that the government may not want to fulfill its promise to uproot terrorism. Vyron Polydoras, the New Democracy party’s shadow public order minister, declared in an interview with Antenna Television yesterday that «an invisible hand is blocking the investigations.» He charged also that when ND was in power (from 1974 to 1981 and from 1990 to 1993), «the PASOK party at that time was, in a way, the political cover for terrorism to operate.» The government spokesman demanded that the ND party leadership say whether it agreed with Polydoras, to which ND replied that its MP had the right to say whatever he liked. Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga claimed that November 17 had been «withdrawn» rather than «eliminated.» She charged, as her party has over the years, that «if November 17 was not the brainchild of state and shadowy foreign services and their local representatives, then it is certainly the result of their penetration and control (of the group).» She charged that «the battle against terrorism, in the way it is described by the USA, EU, NATO and others… can only lead to one thing: new wars and disputes, more militarization and threats.»