NEWS

Police tie up N17 case

The investigation into the November 17 terrorist group appears to be coming to an end, four months after police got their first break when self-confessed assassin Savvas Xeros was seriously injured by a bomb he was carrying in Piraeus. The anti-terrorism squad has sent judicial investigators about 80 percent of the evidence it has collected, sources said. The trial is now expected to start by early March. Suspects must be convicted within 18 months of their arrest – a deadline of early 2004 in most cases. Eighteen suspected members of the group have been arrested after Xeros’s injury on June 29. They are all in Korydallos Prison awaiting trial. Most confessed to being members of the gang that killed 23 people since 1975. But some, including three Xeros brothers, have demanded that their initial testimony to police, prosecutors and the investigating judge be scrapped, saying they were the products of coercion. A fourth Xeros, Avgoustinos, 32, may be joining his brothers Savvas, 40, Christodoulos, 44, and Vassilis, 28, as he has been summoned by investigating judge Leonidas Zervobeakos to testify on Monday. The priest’s son, who is a carpenter, was charged yesterday with being a member of a criminal organization and for possession of weapons. Avgoustinos Xeros was not mentioned in any of the confessions of other suspected members, but his fingerprints were found on eight objects in a gang hideout on Patmou Street, sources said. The only female suspect, Savvas Xeros’s former wife, Angeliki Sotiropoulou, was jailed on similar charges as those faced by Avgoustinos. Unlike his case, though, one of her palm prints was found on a door frame, not on items that may have been brought to the hideout by someone else. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the evidence that has been gathered in the case concerns the contents of hideouts on Patmou and Damareos streets, ballistics tests on weapons, fingerprints on movable and fixed objects, DNA tests on hair and other items, and so on. Sources say that this evidence incriminates suspects, including alleged leader Alexandros Yotopoulos, alleged operations chief Dimitris Koufodinas, Nikos Papanastassiou, the Xeros brothers, Vassilis Tzortzatos, Dionysis Georgiadis, Constantinos Telios, Iraklis Karatsolis and Angeliki Sotiropoulou. This is expected to strengthen the charges against them irrespective of testimony.