NEWS

Koufodinas turns himself in

Greece’s most wanted man, Dimitris Koufodinas, turned himself in to police yesterday after lying low for two months and declared that he was ready to accept the «political responsibility» for November 17’s actions. The 44-year-old beekeeper is accused of involvement in 17 of the terrorist group’s 23 murders, eight attempted murders, and scores of other crimes. A massive manhunt had been under way for him since his disappearance on June 29, after he accompanied Savvas Xeros when the latter was seriously injured by a bomb he was carrying in Piraeus. Several penitent November 17 members have described Koufodinas as the group’s chief of operations and treasurer. An arrest warrant was issued for him on July 31. He is to appear before investigating judge Leonidas Zervobeakos today. Koufodinas pulled up at police headquarters on Alexandras Avenue in a taxi at 2.35 p.m., dressed in jeans, a black T-shirt, sunglasses and a hat. He had called his girlfriend’s lawyer, Gianna Kourtovic, half an hour earlier, telling her that he would turn himself in. «I am Dimitris Koufodinas. I have come to turn myself in,» he told the duty officer. Shortly afterward, he was at the 12th floor headquarters of the anti-terrorism squad. He was fingerprinted and minutes later police knew that they had their man. Koufodinas immediately made clear that unlike 13 of the 15 other November 17 suspects who have been arrested, he would offer no information. «November 17 is finished. It no longer exists. Nor do the conditions exist for armed action to continue. In 15 years, if conditions are right, something similar might appear again,» he told the squad’s officers. «I will not tell you anything about the organization, its actions, the people who took part in it, or its activities.» Later, Koufodinas released a statement through Kourtovic, declaring: «I gave myself up willingly to undertake the political responsibility for the actions claimed by November 17. I deny my guilt in the actions that are attributed to me the way they are in the indictment. The value that determined my personal course was my faith in the construction of a revolutionary movement and my vision for a socialist society. I express my solidarity with all those who are in detention, justly or unjustly, with regard to this case. For every fighter, dignity is a basic value and title of honor.» This was the first political statement by any of the 16 suspects in the gang that operated with impunity for 27 years. Koufodinas was keen to distance himself from the perception that November 17 had acted as a common criminal organization, even though it stole millions of euros in armed robberies. This was sure to enrage the families of victims who had been blown up or shot dead at point-blank range in murders that preceded the group’s extreme left-wing proclamations against the USA, NATO, Turkey and a range of other issues, from high rent to bad health care. Koufodinas’s arrest marked the end of the search for November 17’s core. According to other suspected gang members, Koufodinas, who appears to have joined in 1984, played a central role in recruiting members, choosing targets, planning attacks, distributing weapons and disguises and taking charge of the loot from robberies. He was also described as the right-hand man of Alexandros Yotopoulos. The group’s alleged leader, who was arrested on July 18, denies any involvement. Support network collapsed Dimitris Koufodinas had been on the run since June 29, when the comrade he was accompanying, Savvas Xeros, was seriously injured by a bomb he was carrying in Piraeus. Xeros told investigators that he had shouted, «Run, Loukas, run,» using Koufodinas’s code-name. Koufodinas had days to get away before police realized Xeros was tied to November 17. Koufodinas ran first to one of the gang’s hideouts, in Pangrati, where he tried to destroy evidence, and then spent over two months in hiding. Police believe he was carrying a. 45 automatic the group had used since its first attack in 1975. He was unarmed yesterday. A massive manhunt began after Koufodinas’s identity became known, with thousands of people calling the police hot line (number 170). Sources said that in recent days, police began to put pressure on a network of about 40 people belonging to the «anti-establishment» extreme left who were suspected of providing shelter to Koufodinas, forcing him to give himself up in order to protect them. «The circles sympathetic to armed violence were no longer able to shelter Koufodinas,» a senior Public Order Ministry official told Kathimerini. «This group, which had once felt so powerful, has been defeated and has no room for maneuver.» Among those pressured was Koufodinas’s companion and Xeros’s ex-wife, Angeliki Sotiropoulou, sources said.