Carefree defendants

All accounts of the demeanor of the 19 alleged November 17 members on the opening day of the trial rouse bewilderment and puzzlement. Attendees said that the main suspects were cool and relaxed. With apparent ease, they exchanged greetings and smiles with their relatives in the courtroom, at times bantering among themselves – prompting one journalist to say that «the only thing missing was iced coffee, otherwise you would have thought these people were relaxing at Kolonaki Square.» With gay abandon, they listened to the bill of indictment that charged them with 23 cruel assassinations. The eyes of the parents, children and relatives of the victims met the indifferent gazes of the victimizers. The defendants did not seem to share the concerns of their advocates, who said that the individual rights of their clients were threatened by the prospect of an unfair trial and unjust conviction. Let’s accept the most extreme portrait of the November 17 guerrillas, that of unblemished people’s warriors who resorted to armed struggle in order to rid Greek society of a despotic, tyrannical and detested regime. Foolish and deluded as their mission may have been, they should still spare some sympathy for their innocent victims. They alone mandate a serious stance because the taking of a human life – even if it is seen as a political act – constitutes the most extreme and despicable form of violence. And finally, the hour of judgment demands respect, awe and self-criticism. Normally, a defendant’s stance in court expresses either his acceptance of the charges and remorse or a denial of guilt and defense of his innocence. Rarely does his or her appearance display the unconscionable lack of repentance and callousness that we witnessed on Monday.

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