Tougher law on terror

The Justice Ministry is planning to bolster anti-terrorism legislation following its capture of the core of the November 17 terrorist organization and the looming crackdown on suspected members of similar groups. This will include stiffer penalties for leaders of terrorist groups, as well as the lengthening of the statute of limitations on murder from the current 20 years to 30 years. But the legislation, announced yesterday, will not be retroactive, Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said. This means that crimes already committed by alleged members of November 17 and other groups will be dealt with under the existing law. This applies to the suspects already in pretrial detention and any others who will have committed crimes before the legislation comes into effect. The supplementary articles to the law against organized crime are expected to be passed by Parliament by the end of the year. They will introduce a new crime, «directing a terrorist organization,» which will carry jail terms of 15 and 20 years. Also, for the first time, it will be a crime to finance terrorist organizations. On a related issue, Petsalnikos denied claims by some of the 16 suspected November 17 members that they were being treated unfairly in Korydallos Prison. «Detention conditions are in accordance with the laws of our country and international conventions,» he said. «The measures that have been taken for the detainees are based on providing all that is necessary for them and meeting security requirements. We cannot create detention conditions for them that are more beneficial than those of other prisoners.» The 16 suspects are in specially constructed single cells that have been built in the men’s and women’s wings of the country’s largest prison. In the only exception, Savvas Xeros, who was seriously injured in a bomb blast in Piraeus on June 29, is sharing a cell with his brother Christodoulos, who is taking care of him. Savvas Xeros’s injury gave police their first real break in their effort to crack the gang that had killed 23 people over 27 years. The lawyer of alleged leader Alexandros Yotopoulos, who denies all involvement in the group, has complained that conversations between clients and lawyers are monitored. Petsalnikos said authorities did not eavesdrop on the meetings, which are conducted by phone as bulletproof glass separates prisoner and visitor.

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