NEWS

Key November 17 suspect jailed

Dimitris Koufodinas, the 16th suspected member of the November 17 terrorist gang to be arrested, was jailed in Korydallos Prison yesterday afternoon with 15 other alleged comrades. They will be held pending trial on charges of involvement in scores of attacks, including 23 murders in 27 years. Koufodinas, who surrendered on Thursday after being on the run since June 29, was said by other suspects to have been the group’s chief of operations and treasurer. In a series of statements attributed to him since Thursday, Koufodinas has claimed «political responsibility» for November 17’s crimes but rejected the charges on the indictment. Yesterday, he was brought before investigating judge Leonidas Zervobeakos to whom he handed a statement. He refused to say anything about November 17’s members or activities and also denied that he was connected to any secret service, something that has been widely rumored in some Greek media. According to his lawyer, Gianna Kourtovic, and news reports, Koufodinas said in his statement: «I was a member of November 17 and I agree with the organization’s political positions, as expressed in its proclamations. All my actions and political choices were determined by my faith in the building of a socialist society. In all of my actions, the motives were determined by my ideals and my aim was to contribute to the start of a process of socialist transformation and the vision of a better world. For a fighter who wants a better world, human life has great value, and that is what I believe as well. I never had selfish aims and I never sought personal gain.» Other suspected members have described Koufodinas as a merciless killer who apparently was involved in 17 of the murders. His statement appeared to be part of an effort to present himself as a political prisoner. Until he surrendered and made a similar statement on Thursday, no other alleged member had made such declarations, and all but two of the 15 arrested before Koufodinas confessed to their acts and expressed remorse. Koufodinas’s statements prompted three other suspects (the Xeros brothers Savvas, Christodoulos and Vassilis) to hint that they too would play the political card. On Friday, the brothers issued a statement saying that soon they would explain how their confessions had been made. On Saturday, Savvas Xeros’s fiancee, Alicia Romero Cortes, declared: «Savvas told me to announce to you that the developments you will see will be beyond the imagination of journalists.» She did not elaborate, but people close to Xeros have suggested that Savvas may have been drugged into confessing while in hospital, where he was treated for serious injuries caused by a bomb he was carrying in Piraeus on June 29. He was the first November 17 suspect to fall into police hands and his confession helped destroy the gang that had operated with impunity since December 1975. The authorities, however, have said that the confessions have been backed by evidence. Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said yesterday: «Talking about political responsibility for horrible acts means nothing. The crimes are criminal ones and this cannot change.» Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in Thessaloniki for the start of the trade fair, dismissed the alleged terrorists’ efforts to appear as Robin Hoods. «They have hijacked left-wing ideology,» he said. «Do you have ‘dignity’ or ‘morals,’ when you kill, when you loot, when you maim people for the rest of their lives?» On Saturday night, on the occasion of Simitis’s visit, a small number of masked youths broke away from a rally of about 2,500 people – including farmers and anti-globalization protesters – and clashed with police. They destroyed a television camera. An officer was slightly injured and two youths detained. Nudist beach hid fugitive Greece’s most wanted man, Dimitris Koufodinas, spent several weeks camping on a nudist beach on a small island about 90 minutes’ hydrofoil ride from Piraeus, police said on Saturday. Koufodinas had refused to say where he had been between June 29 and his surrender on Thursday, September 5. Koufodinas had been with Savvas Xeros on June 29 when the latter was seriously injured by a bomb in Piraeus. On Thursday night, a resident of Angistri told police that he had seen someone who looked like Koufodinas throwing some things in the garbage near Halikiada, a remote beach. Police told the mayor not to send a truck to empty the garbage bins and they sped to the scene. On Saturday they said that they had found Koufodinas’s fingerprints on some items. Their discovery included a tent, sleeping bag, a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, a baseball cap, two new radios, and newspapers from August and September. A local shopowner said Koufodinas had bought a T-shirt from her on July 17.