ATHENS - He killed 23 people- proud about it - among the 23 victims of his Nov. 17 terrorist group - but to his adoring fans, Dimitris Koufodinas was just working for cause, so they've taken to the streets by the thousands to back his demand for a prison transfer so he can end his hunger strike.
Koufodinas hasn't eaten for two months and stopped taking liquids while in a hospital in the central city of Lamia where he was taken from a prison in Domokos in his protest against not being returned to the Korydallos jail in Athens.
He had been transferred from Korydallos, which was a high-security prison being before turned as well into a pre-detention center, to a low-security work farm under the former rule of the Radical Left SYRIZA, which is riddled with terrorist and anarchist sympathizers and has rallied again to his side.
Koufodinas was given fluids intravenously when his kidney showed signs of failure and as his supporters stepped up increasingly violent protests in the capital and second-largest city of Thessaloniki.
Many are too young to remember the terror reign of Nov. 17 from 1975 until 2002, when it was busted up ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympic under increasing pressure from the international community.
That was especially from the United States, Nov. 17 having killed five Americans attached to the US Embassy over the years but Koufodinas has shown no remorse and during one of his six vacations from mail under SYRIZA was seen walking around Athens pointing to spots where he killed people.
None of that matters to his acolytes although Nov. 17 didn't come close to its revolutionary goals, including driving out an American presence, especially militarily, in Greece.
Ironically, the major major opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras increased the US military role and didn't take Greece out of NATO as he vowed, reneging on his promises to do so and essentially opposing what Nov. 17 wanted.
But Tsipras has led the call for the New Democracy government to bend to Koufodinas' demand for a transfer, the assassin's backers claiming the law isn't being followed - denied by the administration.
Among Nov. 17's victims were a CIA. station chief in Athens, a British military attaché and several Greek businessmen, as well as Pavlos Bakoyannis, the brother-in-law of the current conservative prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, The New York Times reported of the growing movement backing Koufodinas.
The paper noted he was called “Poison Hand” by the Greek media but he can do no wrong to his supporters who violated COVID-19 health measures against public gatherings for a series of street protests.
INSULTING THE ASSASSIN
The group's name derives from the date in 1973 when Greece's oppressive military dictatorship, backed by the United States during a 1967 coup, put down a student uprising against its rule, killing 23 people.
Mitsotakis showed no signs of giving in even as Koufodinas' health deteriorated and the Union of Judges and Prosecutors - in an open conflict of interest - took his side and called for the government to relent to his demand.
The Premier's office issued a statement that the government would not permit “preferential treatment and violations of the law,” and his lawyer, Ioanna Kourtovik, lost a bid to get him released on grounds of his failing health when a court said it was self-induced and there was a remedy: eat and taken treatment.
Kourtovik, on Wednesday accused the government of vindictive and unlawful tactics and she had tried to get him released - some in SYRIZA wanted that while the Leftists ruled - because “His life is at risk,” Greek TV said.
The family of one of victims noted their loved one's life isn't at risk but gone forever but she said that was an “insult” to the terrorist killer and protests supporting him have intensified and police said to be open targets.
Anarchists and terrorist sympathizers have taken to vandalism and also attacked police stations, authorities said to have a contingency plan in place in case he dies.
Officials anticipate protest or riots on a scale similar to the two weeks of rage that engulfed Athens for two weeks in December of 2008 when 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead by a police special guard during a gathering in the anarchist stronghold of Exarchia.
The Times noted that some lawyers, academics and journalists have complained that their Facebook accounts have been restricted after they posted photographs of rallies in support of Koufodinas or expressed support for his rights.
SYRIZA warned that Greece “must not become the first European country in 40 years to have a dead hunger striker,” while the center-left Movement for Change urged against turning the convicted man into a “symbol for struggle.”
Some terrorism experts fear the hunger strike could spur new violence and coalesce anti-establishment forces. “These groups are already recruiting new members,” Mary Bossis, Professor of International Security at the University of Piraeus, near Athens told the paper.
In the event of his death, she said, “we could even see a resurgence of domestic terrorism,” Greece having a number of terrorist groups although many ringleaders have been jailed and New Democracy stepping up public order.
She blamed the stalemate of what to do with Koufodinas on the failure of Greek political parties to reach a consensus on how to deal with terrorism and convicted terrorists.
Some opposition lawmakers said that a law passed by the conservatives last year permits a prison transfer, which New Democracy said isn't so while criticizing SYRIZA for being lenient on Koufodinas and terrorists.
“Since the 1970s, parties argued about how to tackle terrorists instead of seeking consensus,” Bossis said. “We should have never reached this point.”