|Tuesday, 28 January 2020|
Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 2002-07-23
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
MACEDONIAN PRESS AGENCY Thessaloniki, July 23, 2002
[A] NATIONAL NEWS
[B] INTERNATIONAL NEWS
[A] NATIONAL NEWS
Specifically, according to the testimonies so far, the members of the organization prepared the attacks for months, practicing in the field in which they were going to strike. They never hesitated despite the fact that they knew neither the name nor the reason for which those individuals had been selected as targets, while later they would discuss how well the operation had gone. Also, all of the accused, so far, have named A. Giotopoulos as the mind behind "November 17".
In the meantime, police investigations continue in all directions, for the tracing and arrest of Dimitris Koufontinas, who, according to evidence from the preliminary investigations, had a major role in the organization, as well as for the other members who seem to have participated in the operational sector of the organization. In fact two more arrests are expected within the next few hours, who belong to the organizational sector of "November 17", while two more individuals will be arrested before the end of the week.
The circle of the directly involved in the organization is expected to close within the next few days, while people with a helping secondary role are expected to be taken in. It is also believed that within this period individuals will be arrested for wh om there is serious evidence of participation in the Revolutionary People's Struggle (ELA) and other terrorist groups.
Already, from the testimonies of the 4 of the accused, it became apparent that at least 6 more individuals participated in the terrorist actions, while Giannis Serifis was brought back into the foreground, after Christodoulos Xeros' claims in his testimo ny that G. Serifis was the man who recruited him, a statement that caused the reaction of Serifis.
Finally, shortly, possibly even within the day, the terrorist actions that Savvas Xeros has admitted participating in will be announced. It is rumored that the list will be quite long just like his brother's, Christodoulos, and will include all the murde rs from 1985 to Steve Saunders. Also, the first three of the accused will be transferred to Corrydalos within the day.
Meanwhile, during these first days of his arrest, Al. Giotopoulos appears to be bossy, disparaging towards the police and not at all cooperative, while government sources, according to the "Kathimerini" newspaper - transferring the image that has so far been formed by the authorities - underlined: "Giotopoulos will not talk, unless there is something to dramatically changed the course of the investigations".
There is evidence from older attacks of the organization which according to a top government staff official "proves both his participation and his leading role". Therefore this is a leading member of the organization that undertook recruitment of members
from other terrorist organizations that were active at the same time and had connections with "November 17", as well as joint guidance with Al. Giotopoulos and the third member of the organization's leadership is no longer alive.
However, relevant sources made mention of a "procedural snag" which concerns the gathering of evidence and information regarding the first period of action of the organization, and which will lead to the arrest of the leaders, since "its verification wil l require much more time than that necessary to set up the charges for the second and third generation members".
Obviously the goal of the authorities is to collect indisputable evidence "which cannot be questioned in court".
The two faces of the organization
Investi--gations so far have led to the conclusion that the 27-year-old phantom organization, changed face completely after the early 80s, when it is assumed that A. Giotopoulos took up full leadership, and "reformed the organization according to his, st rict model".
It is the period during which Savvas and Christodoulos Xeros' admitted joining the organization. However, during the first period "November 17" appeared as a "leading group formation" which did not lack conflict between the membership of the leadership f or ideological and operational reasons.
A turning point in the course of "November 17" was the retiring of Chr. Tsoutsouvis from ELA (along with 70% of their arms) and the creation of the "Anti-state Struggle".
During that period, there was increased tension between the wanted party - and second leading member - and the third leading member who was killed during an operation, the details of which are now known to the authorities, and which took place near the e nd of the 70s. That did not prevent him however, from recruiting many members from other organizations - mainly from ELA, something that was necessary for "November 17" to survive.
known as "Stamatis", Savvas Xeros as "Michalis", Dimitris Koufontinas as "Lucas", Iraklis Kostaris as "Harris", Giannis Skandalis as "Komis" (The Count), Alexandros Giotopoulos as "Lambros o Psilos" (Lambros the Tall Guy) and Christodoulos Xeros as "Mano lis".
Alexandros Giotopoulos: I deny all charges against me and I will testify anything related to the DA with my attorney present.
Vassilis Xeros: Georgiadis offered these extra "services" to the organization for about a year and essentially stopped in the middle of 1998.
"Apart from Lucas (D. Koufontinas) and Savvas I have not met other people in the house on Patmos st. I have also visited "Lucas" in the organization's house in Piraeus, where there were guns, rockets, explosives and other materials. But in the beginning of 1999, after the order of "Lucas", I started looking for a new house in the Pagrati area. Georgiadis continued to support us, but in very minor issues. In the placing of "baskets" (bombs) at McDonalds and Detroit Motors on Kifisia Avenue, as well as out side Chrysler on Katechaki Avenue, and at the Mesogion Avenue Opel hit, I was the lookout. Savvas placed (the explosives) and "Lucas" looked out. We went there in stolen cars, which we then dumped. Takis (possibly Iraklis Kostaris) participated in some of
the thefts. The people which I mainly worked with were my brothers, Koufontinas, Georgiadis and Takis, using the codename "Harris".
Also, Lambros (Alexandros Giotopoulos) and I had met a man in Piraeus before the Peratikos murder, who had given me the feeling that he was the "Chief", but I do not know anything else about him. We called money lettuce, guns pens, bombs baskets, rockets
pipes, and when we wanted to say we were going to kill someone, we would say that we were going to do something for them."
Christodoulos Xeros: "In 1983, I met Giannis Serifis and we spoke about the possibility of armed action for the first time. Serifis brought me into contact with Dimitris Koufontinas who he introduced as "Lucas".
"Lucas" brought me into contact with the "Count". They taught me conspiratorial rules, how to steal cars, etc. In 1984 they introduced me to "Lambros the Tall Guy", "Nikitas", and "Alekos" or the "film". "Lambros" is around 60 today and "Nikitas" is abou t 55, average height, with slightly wavy brown hair, wears glasses for near-sightedness and was slightly overweight.
"Alekos" is around 45 now, and his name is Patroklos". Among other things, in his testimony, Christodoulos mentioned that they rehearsed before carrying out the hits. Concerning the operation against US official Robert Chad, he mentioned: "The one who we nt to the starting point, Syntagma Square, called the cafe we were at when the target left, and asked for a prearranged non-existent name.
When he cafe owner called the name out the two guys that were there understood that the target was on his way and after awhile left discreetly. I believed that the organization was doing the right thing and would force the world to change. Slowly, after realizing that nothing could be achieved, I stopped my political activity..."
Vassilis Tzortzatos: Referring to Christodoulos, who recruited him in 1985. "He introduced me to "Lucas" with the nickname "Stamatis". In our meeting with "Lucas" we talked about American political and financial goals.
The meetings continued until the day we decided to kill Momferatos", Tzortzatos also referred to the attack against the Police Special Forces bus in 1985, while he described other killings, "Since 1992 I have not participated in any actions, I repent for
my actions and denounce any such form of struggle because it leads nowhere".
Kostas Karatsolis: Referring to how his brother-in-law, Kostaris, recruited him. He introduced him to "Michalis" (Savvas Xeros) and "Lucas" (Dimitris Koufontinas) and told him they belonged to an organization and were going to fight. They called Iraklis Kostaris "Harris".
After a few meetings they revealed that they were members of N17 and they had planned entering the Vyronas Police Department and stealing weapons for the organization. I accepted the proposal". After giving some evidence about the operation on the Police
Department, he then mentioned that: "From the end of 1990 I have participated in no operations".
We would meet in the St. Nikolaos Station in Kato Patissia, at a grill house and a church in the area of the station. It was there that we had said we were going to "do" a ND MP, Sykourio and place "baskets" in embassy cars.
After the end of the meeting, Mrs. Papandreou stressed that by the end of the year, the institutional framework for the studies and quality control of major works, which the government has committed to, will be presented to the Commission.
According to a publication in "The Vima" newspaper, members of N17 came from or ended up in one of these organizations. The Greek Police believe that the individuals arrested in Thesprotia came from "ELA" and "May 1st", and that Koufontinas and Christodo ulos Xeros were connected to members of the "Anti-State Struggle"
The authorities are supporting the theory of "communicating vessels", since apart from N17 and "ELA", that were active in the past 27 years, other organizations were created that originated from or ended up there.
Meanwhile the counter-terrorism service seems to have turned to investigations for the tracking of an individual in Thessaloniki, as well as to solve the case of the attack on the branch of the National Bank, after information gained from testimonies of N17 members that have been arrested.
The case concerns a 40-year-old teacher called "Marcos", who seems to be a collaborator of N17, as well as a robbery attributed to ELA that took place two years ago against an armored truck outside the National Bank on Pavlos Melas st.
Mr. Chrisochoidis stressed that "17 November" suffered a powerful blow through a systematic and methodical effort and pointed out that already 10 individuals have been arraigned, while one person is still wanted. In addition, the evidence on possible inv olvement of other individuals is being examined.
The Minister of Public Order made it clear that the "17 November" case will close for the Greek state only when all suspects will be led to justice and assured that light will be shed on the case.
Referring to democracy in Greece, he pointed out that the Greek people were wounded by the national disasters and wars but they were determined to defend democracy and their rights. Terrorism had cast a shadow over this course as it attempted to replace the people's will and the state of law. However, he pointed out that long before it was defeated by the police at an operational level, "17 November" was defeated at a political and ideological level by the power of democracy as it was made clear that vio lence cannot be the means to solve political or ideological disputes.
Mr. Chrisochoidis thanked the Prime Minister and the political leadership in Greece for the confidence they showed in him, the Greek Police and the prosecutor's office, while he also thanked the Greek people for their support to the efforts against terro rism.
Mr. Nasiakos stated that "17 November" suffered a powerful blow based on the fact that 10 of its members have been arrested and another one, namely Dimitris Koufodinas, is still wanted. He said that based on the preliminary investigations, the individual s, who are under police custody, in cooperation with others, who are still wanted, have committed the overwhelming majority of the "17 November" terrorist and criminal acts, mainly the robberies.
The Greek Police Chief praised the efforts of the Greek Police officers and stated that the efforts will continue for the arrest of all those who participated in "17 November" from the day it was established until today.
Mr. Protopapas stated that the leak came from someone who had access to the preliminary examinations and added that every citizen is innocent until proven guilty. He stated that police should be left alone to do their work.
The government spokesman also denied press reports according to which, Greece has requested the assistance of the Turkish police.
Specifically, in 1990 a total of 52 deaths were recorded in Athens, 9 in Thessaloniki and 5 in the rest of the country, while in 2001 the deaths in those regions were 211, 54 and 56 respectively. Based on the available figures, the drug-related deaths in creased almost 4 times in Athens, 6 times in Thessaloniki and 11 times in the rest of the country.
The majority of those, who lost their lives from the drugs, were not married (58 in 1990 and 211 in 2001), jobless (29 in 1990 and 258 in 2001), and with basic education (29 in 1990 and 108 in 2001).
On the course of Turkey toward the European Union, he said that it is a big bet and the preconditions for this are the main issue of discussion in the neighboring country.
Mr. Papandreou referred to Greece's role in the European Union and the Balkans and the challenges that will be faced by Greece when it will take over the EU Presidency. He also referred to the 2004 Olympic Games and the promotion of the Olympic Truce whi ch wins more and more supporters.
Mr. Papandreou thanked the parliament deputies of Greek origin for their support on crucial issues for Greece such as, the Cyprus issue, the reopening of the Theology School of Chalki, the ethnic Greek minority in Albania, etc.
He said that the dismantling of the terrorist group "17 November" is a great success for Greece and stressed that the global efforts to protect democracy must continue.
Of the stocks trading today, 126 recorded gains and 164 had losses, while the value of 89 stocks remained unchanged.
Mr. Tzatzakis stated that Telios appeared voluntarily to the police this afternoon and admitted that he took part in specific acts within the framework of his participation in "17 November". Telios was arrested and is already being transferred to Athens.
According to press information, before Telios' arrest police had searched two apartments in Thessaloniki. No guns or printed material were found.
[B] INTERNATIONAL NEWS
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw gave a personal letter to Foreign Minister Giorgos Papandreou, in which he welcomed the success of the Greek authorities against terrorism.
Mr. Papandreou informed his colleagues of the developments in the terrorism case and the progress in the eradication of "November 17", during a luncheon they had.