NEWS

Seventeenth N17 arrest

Anti-terrorism squad officers yesterday arrested Angeliki Sotiropoulou, acting on a warrant issued by the investigating judge after police told him that Sotiropoulou’s fingerprints had been found in a hideout used by the November 17 terrorist organization. Sotiropoulou, 40, was picked up outside a supermarket in the Exarchia district. She was charged with membership in a criminal organization, the procurement and possession of explosives and weapons in cooperation with others. All three charges are felonies and appear tied to the fact that the Pangrati hideout in which her fingerprints were found on a doorframe was used by November 17 to store explosives, anti-tank rockets and small arms. Sotiropoulou is the first woman and 17th suspect to be arrested in the investigation into November 17. «She denies everything,» her lawyer, Gianna Kourtovic, said after Sotiropoulou appeared before investigating judge Leonidas Zervobeakos, from whom she requested some time to prepare her statement. She is to remain in custody at the anti-terrorism squad’s offices at police headquarters on Alexandras Avenue until tomorrow, when she will testify before Zervobeakos. Sotiropoulou was the subject of speculation for weeks after police sources leaked to news media that her fingerprints had been found in two hideouts, but only on items (a newspaper, a book and a blanket) that could have been carried there from elsewhere. The fingerprints on a fixed item in a hideout prompted her arrest. She has been in the public eye since early July, when it emerged that she was the former wife of Savvas Xeros, a suspected senior operative of November 17 who was seriously injured by a bomb he was carrying in Piraeus on June 29. She was questioned by police on July 4 and said that she knew nothing about Xeros’s involvement with November 17. It then turned out that Sotiropoulou had been living for the past 13 years with Dimitris Koufodinas, the suspected chief of November 17’s operations who disappeared after Xeros’s injury but who gave himself up last Thursday. Sotiropoulou is the mother of a 12-year-old boy whom news media have described alternately as the son of Xeros or Koufodinas. She and Koufodinas were beekeepers. They lived in a large house in Varnavas, near Athens. Savvas Xeros had suggested in his testimony to Zervobeakos that Sotiropoulou might have had some knowledge of what he and Koufodinas did. «In the summer of 1989, Koufodinas, my former wife and I went to (the island of) Gavdos. There, Koufodinas and my wife began a relationship,» Xeros reportedly said. «I introduced Koufodinas to my former wife as a friend and not as a member of the organization, because my former wife did not know much about such things. She knew that something vaguely suspicious was going on because of the odd hours I kept. But she did not know nor could she work out precisely what was going on. After our divorce in 1989, I visited my wife only to see the child and I don’t know if later, when she was living with Koufodinas, she knew about this organization.» Speculation was rife in past weeks that Xeros had made a deal with authorities to confess in exchange for his former wife remaining untouched. This may have changed because there was no such deal, the fingerprints had made an arrest inevitable, or recent statements by Xeros that he might change his statement had canceled any agreement. Police are continuing to sift through the evidence they found in the hideouts in Pangrati and Patissia. The relatives of victims of November 17 yesterday issued a ringing denunciation of some suspects’ efforts to give a political motive to their actions.