OPINION

Public verdict

If I were one of the main defendants in the trial of the November 17 terrorist guerrillas, I would not be interested in the reasoning and the ruling of the tribunal. The verdict, after all, was almost certain beforehand as the evidence and the testimonies were overwhelming. On the other hand, I would be very disappointed over the sheer apathy displayed by most of society during the nine-month trial. The defendants tried to attribute political motives to their 30-year activity. N17’s numerous proclamations claiming responsibility for criminal acts were aimed at winning popular support, or at least a consensus in the form of tolerance. However, even the early killings of Athens CIA station chief Richard Welch and police officers accused of torture during the 1967-74 dictatorship failed to win them the desired support. The reason for this must be sought in the pattern of the killings: months of surveillance, ambush, treachery. The goal was to find the victim unprotected and kill him without risk. Also, the hefty loot they gained from bloody robberies of banks and supermarkets had long deprived them of the alibi that their acts were part of a broader struggle for the common good. The group’s longevity and ability to elude capture for three decades provided its only legendary dimension. The legend collapsed after police began dismantling N17, disclosing that the members possessed no extensive network, no superhuman abilities, no sophisticated training. All were ordinary people who either rushed to own up to benefit from the provisions of the law, confessed before the police only to revoke their statements later on, or denied any involvement – like every criminal who tries to avoid public wrath. Blatant public apathy during the trial resembled a final public verdict which preceded that of the court itself.