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Accused as Rebel, Greek Makes Not Guilty Plea

March 05, 2003|From Reuters

ATHENS — The accused leader of Greece's November 17 guerrilla group, Alexandros Giotopoulos, denied Tuesday that he was the founder of the organization and said he was on trial because of an Anglo-American plot.

The radical leftist group is blamed for 23 killings of Greeks and foreigners, including U.S., British and Turkish diplomats, over nearly three decades.

On the second day of the high-profile trial of 19 suspected members of November 17, other defendants joined Giotopoulos, a mathematician, in claiming that a political conspiracy had landed them in court facing 2,000 charges, including murder, terrorism and bank robbery.

There were fewer guilty pleas from the defendants than had been expected, with 12 of the accused denying any involvement with the group.

Giotopoulos told the court he was being prosecuted for his actions against Greece's 1967-74 military dictatorship, which was backed by Washington as a buffer against communism.

"I deny all charges. I am here because the Americans want me to be. The charges are a cheap joint Anglo-American construction," he said.

The group's alleged top hit man, Dimitris Koufodinas, said in his plea that he stood by November 17's "political responsibility" but denied all charges against him.

"This is a trial of extreme measures and special punishment. I deny the charges," said Koufodinas, known as "Poison Hand" because of his accuracy with a gun.

November 17's first victim was Athens CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975. The last was British defense attache Stephen Saunders, gunned down in June 2000. The group took its name from the date of a 1973 student uprising against the military dictatorship. The rebellion was crushed.

The suspects face life sentences if found guilty.

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