ATHENS – After a cascade of brutal criticism over the two-day furlough given a mastermind of the Nov. 17 terrorist group tied to 23 assassinations, including five Americans, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA said it would act to prevent further releases of “high-risk” prisoners.
The government already is trying to deal with an image that it has tolerated violence and lawlessness in the capital city as the party is riddled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers and those who don’t want people in prison, and for the outright release of killers and anti-government convicts.
The United States Ambassador – five Americans were among Nov. 17’s victims – the United Kingdom and Turkey all assailed the Greek government over the holiday given Dimitris Koufoudinas, who was all smiles when he got out and was seen at a tavern enjoying himself, saying he wanted to reconnect with his family and restart his old beekeeping business.
The business newspaper Naftemporiki said the government gave assurances to foreign governments that holidays for killers would stop although Koufoudinas got the go-ahead from Appeals Court judges and a prosecutor to go have a time before he returned.
The government reportedly said that the furlough granted to Koufoudinas was lawful under current legislation and that it was not tied to SYRIZA’s sympathy for terrorists, anarchists and assassins. Koufoudinas is serving 11 life sentences plus 25 years but Greek law allows even multiple murders and serial killers to have holidays.
During SYRIZA’s tenure that began in 2015, the government pushed through legislation, the so-called Paraskevopoulos Law, named for former Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos who said he wanted to relieve congestion in prisons but admitted it was a mistake.
Press reports have linked several crime-related deaths to convicts released under the law, drawing even more heat for the government.
The November 17 group, which first appeared when its members assassinated the CIA station chief in Athens, Richard Welch, in December 1975, remained elusive until 2002, until one of its members was arrested after a botched bomb attack that year.
November 17 assassinated diplomats and military personnel from all three countries who protested the leave. They also killed Greek targets, including Pavlos Bakoyannis, a journalist and politician, husband of former Athens mayor and foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and brother-in-law of current opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Both Dora Bakoyannis and Mitsotakis criticized the government for allowing Koufodinas, who gunned down Bakoyiannis in September 1989, to leave prison for the first time since 2002.
“I was in shock at first … then, my first thought is not to have my children watch the news. Because one of the biggest trials is to have to explain what happened to the children,” said Costas Bakoyannis, the governor of the central Greek region and Pavlos’ son, who was 11 when his father was slain.
Koufodinas, who was convicted along with several other November 17 members in 2003, can apply again for a furlough after 60 days. While outside, he had to report twice daily to the nearest police precinct and was closely monitored.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)