Terrorism Gang Goes on Trial in Greece

The Birmingham Post (England), March 4, 2003 | Go to article overview

Terrorism Gang Goes on Trial in Greece


Byline: Kate Bishop

Heather Saunders, the widow of the British defence attach assassinated by Greek terrorists, yesterday watched the opening of the trial of 19 alleged members of the gang that killed him.

November 17, which gunned down Brigadier Stephen Saunders as he drove to work in Athens in June 2000, is blamed for a generation of violence.

The landmark proceedings against the once-impenetrable November 17 cell were seen as another major step by Greek authorities to redeem their reputations after being outwitted for 28 years.

The group, which eluded police since its first attack in 1975, is blamed for more than 100 bombings, a string of armed robberies and 23 murders, including Brigadier Saunders - their last victim.

The suspects, including the alleged leader of the group, were led by armed guards into a special area - ringed by panels of bullet-proof glass - in a bunkerlike courtroom inside Greece's largest maximum security prison. Window blinds were drawn shut. They sat under armed guard behind a special bullet-proof enclosure for the opening of the trial. The main judge asked each suspect to stand and acknowledge their name. The alleged leader, French-born academic Alexandros Giotopoulos, later sat alone in the rear of the pen.

The trial could last for months, but the defendants won a quick victory: removal of the security enclosure.

The judges ordered the bulletproof panels dismantled before today's proceedings and said the steel frame should also be taken down within five days.

More than 50 police officers inflak jackets stood guard. Also gazing on the suspects were some relatives of November 17 victims, including Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Heather Saunders. …

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