ATHENS – Former American Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns has joined the chorus of critics over a second furlough granted a terrorist ringleader in the defunct November 17 group which killed 23 people, including five Americans, as tarnishing the country’s image.
Burns, who served in Athens from 1997-2001, said the 48-hour vacation from jail for Dimitris Koufodinas, who said he wanted to restart a beekeeping business and have time with his family, told Kathimerini the terrorist didn’t deserve mercy or a break from jail.
Burns, now a Harvard University professor, posted a photo after Koufodinas’ first furlough in November, 2017 of a plaque he dedicated as Ambassador in memory of “all victims of terrorism in Greece,” listing five who had been attached to the US Embassy.
Koufodinas was a leader of the terrorist group linked to deadly attacks on US, British, Turkish and Greek targets between 1975 and 2000, was met by his lawyer and family members after leaving prison Feb. 9, Greek TV showed.
He had been called “Poison Hand” by Greek media, Koufondinas, has never showed remorse and is serving multiple life sentences, not including the vacation he’s being given with the blessing of the Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who said after the killer’s first release that the government would stop furloughs for violent criminals.
But with SYRIZA riddled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers, and for whom Koufodinas is a champion for attacking interests that were the same targets as the Leftists before Tsipras surrendered to international creditors, the furloughs keep being given.
The decision to temporarily release Koufondinas again was denounced by the families of the group’s victims and Greek opposition parties, as well as Britain and the United States.
“It is extremely disappointing to see an unrepentant terrorist brought out of prison again,” said British ambassador Kate Smith, adding that it was an insult to the “memory of victims and the feelings of the families,” the news agency Agence France Presse said.
Nov. 17, named after a student uprising against the 1967-1974 military junta, was behind the 1975 killing of the CIA’s Athens station chief Richard Welch, and was untouched until 2002, with the 2004 Olympics looming and Greece under pressure to ramp up security.
British military attache Stephen Saunders was the group’s last victim, in 2000.
US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt retweeted a statement by the State Department saying that “we fundamentally believe that convicted terrorists do not deserve a vacation from prison,” but America has done nothing about it other than complain.
New Democracy Conservative politician Dora Bakoyannis, whose husband was assassinated by the group, called the killer’s release “a serious offense to Greek society and the notion of justice.”
“The families of the victims will never forget,” said Bakoyannis, who is the sister of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of main opposition party New Democracy.
Koufodinas’ lawyer Ioanna Kurtovic, said that the rights of every prisoner should be respected even if they are assassins, killers, or terrorists because they deserve a break from jail under Greek law.
Koufodinas, who evaded police in 2002 for months by camping out on a secluded beach when the other members of the group were arrested, eventually turned himself in but now wants out every now and then with the law allowing him to repetition for furloughs every two months. That could be blocked by Greek prosecutors but they didn’t object.
The former mathematician and beekeeper later wrote a best-seller on his life in the extremist group.