N17 had perpetrated a series of attacks from 1975 and until 2002 no member of the group had been identified or arrested. The group is named after the November 17, 1973 uprising by students at the Athens Polytechnic university against the military junta, in which twenty students were killed. Since the military junta was backed by the United States as part of that country's anti-Communist efforts, most of the group's attacks have been directed at American targets.
The group's first attack was in December 1975, when the CIA's Athens station chief was shot. The group have committed further assassinations, often using a .45 calibre handgun, and around fifty other attacks. Initial attacks were aimed at American and Greek officials but the range of operations was expanded in the 1980s and 1990s to include bombings and EU targets. The group is also opposed to Turkey and NATO.
The group wants to get rid of U.S. bases in Greece, to remove the Turkish military from Cyprus, and to sever Greece's ties to NATO and the European Union.
In June 2000, the group killed Stephen Saunders, a British Defence Attaché.
Following a failed operation on June 29, 2002 the Greek authorities captured an injured suspect, Savvas Xiros. His interrogation led to the discovery of two safe houses and to the arrest of a further six suspects, including two brothers of Savvas. A 58 year old professor, Alexandros Giotopoulos, was identified as the group leader and was arrested on July 17 on the island of Lipsi. On September 5, Dimitris Koufodinas - identified as the group's chief of operations - surrendered to the authorities. In all, nineteen individuals were charged with some 2,500 offences relating to November 17's activities. Because of the 20-year statute of limitations, murders before 1984 were not tried by the court.
The trial of the terrorist suspects commenced in Athens on March 3, 2003. On December 8, fifteen of the accused, including Giotopoulos and Koufodinas, were found guilty; another four were acquitted for lack of evidence. The convicted members were sentenced on December 17, with Giotopoulous sentenced to 21 life terms - the heaviest sentence in Greek legal history. Koufodinas received 13 life terms. The prosecutor has proposed that Christodoulos Xeros receive 10 life terms; Savvas Xeros six; Vassilitis Tzortzatos four; Iraklis Kostaris one. Lesser sentences are proposed for the remaining nine, in the light of extenuating circumstances.
Under Greek law, one life term is equal to a 25-year term and a convict may apply for parole after 16 years. If sentenced to more than one life term, he or she must serve at least 20 years before being eligible for parole. Other sentences will run concurrently, with 25-year terms being the maximum and with parole possible after three-fifths of this term are served.
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