Not Fake News: Jailed Greek Terrorists Seek Release

July 3, 2019

ATHENS – After Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and Justice Minister Michalis Kalogirou denied jailed terrorist ex-members of Nov. 17 would be released, five members of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire terror group have filed to get out.

That is being made possible under a penal reform bill pushed through Parliament in what is likely to be the last days of the SYRIZA regime with Tsipras far behind major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis as July 7 snap elections loom.

Tsipras and Kalogirou had both described media reports about the Nov. 17 killers getting out of jail as “fake news,” and the Justice Minister claimed the government was setting tough conditions for any release of terrorists, anarchists and multiple murderers who could be confined to house arrest and electronic bracelet monitoring.

It wasn’t clear who would be eligible with contradictory reports about the new penal bill that was passed after Tsipras called the snap elections and SYRIZA was essentially left almost alone in Parliament to do what it wanted.

The five Cells of Fire convicts were arrested in 2010 and 2011 in Volos and Athens and were each given prison terms of 70 years, which were subsequently reduced to 20 years, and can now secure early release under the provisions of the new penal code, said Kathimerini.

Two others from the group were recently released despite critics warning there could be a return to terror activity as it was accused of being behind multiple attacks, including sending a parcel bomb to then German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in 2017, bombing an Athens courthouse, a shootout with police and wanting the downfall of the government.

The SYRIZA leniency bill grants lifers the right to conditional early release no matter how serious their crime, including murder, if they served at least 17 years in jail, with prosecutors and judges saying it was customized to free the Nov. 17 killers, including Dimitris Koufodinas, who had has seven furloughs.

The group killed 23 people, including five Americans attached to the US Embassy over the years, leading US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt to say that Koufodinas “is a murder, not Robin Hood,” after the US had tweeted denunciations.

Four November 17 convicts haves served exactly 17 years in jail, coinciding with the leniency bill’s stipulation, including the group’s leader Alexandros Giotopoulos, and the brothers Savvas and Christodoulos Xiros and Vassilis Tzortzatos. Koufodinas will be eligible in September after having been transferred from the high-security Korydallos Prison to a low-security work farm.

Kalogirou insisted the new penal code toughens conditions for terrorists’ final release but did not comment on the new provisions that make them eligible for conditional early release or why they shouldn’t serve their long terms, including life sentences.

Opposition New Democracy spokeswoman Sofia Zacharaki said the new code demonstrated the leftist government’s “tolerance for all forms of lawlessness.”


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