Nov17 judges vs clock

Prime Minister Costas Simitis was briefed by Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos yesterday on the judicial investigation into November 17, and the prime minister called for quick work so that the trial may begin «as soon as possible.» This was in view of the danger that the 18-month pre-detention period could end before a conviction, in which case detainees would have to be released. This period expires in January 2004. Furthermore, at least one other case, involving the murder of US Navy Captain George Tsantes and his driver, Nikos Veloutsos, on December 15, 1983, could also go unpunished because of the 20-year statute of limitations. Already, it appears that the murder of CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975 and of four Greeks before 1982 will remain unpunished. Petsalnikos told reporters that he briefed Simitis on all legal aspects of the case. «The competent prosecutors and judges have full knowledge of the time limitations and the case will move ahead at the necessary speed,» he said. Simitis also showed concern over two other outstanding cases: the trial of six crew members accused in the sinking of the Express Samina ferry with the loss of 80 lives two years ago, and the collapse of badly constructed buildings in the Athens earthquake of September 1999. Petsalnikos, sources said, assured Simitis that «both cases are moving along without delays.» A Supreme Court decision is awaited on whether a lower panel’s decision to turn the ferry sinking into a misdemeanor from a felony will be annulled.