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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-08-12

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

August 12, 2002


  • [01] N17 suspect says he pulled the trigger on UK diplomat
  • [02] Bush praises Greek PM for progress on combatting terrorism
  • [03] Weapon found near president's home not army issue
  • [04] PM, opposition leader welcome sprinter's historic gold
  • [05] State doctors launch 48-hour strike Monday
  • [06] Ancient ship replica to set sail for Athens Olympics in May 2004
  • [07] Nine-year-old Greek wins top actor award at Locarno film festival
  • [08] Christofias says Ankara to blame for deadlock
  • [09] Hasikos says Cyprus must have strong defense
  • [10] CPJ protests ''sentences'' of Turkish Cypriot journalists

  • [01] N17 suspect says he pulled the trigger on UK diplomat

    Athens, 12/08/2002 (ANA)

    Savvas Xiros, charged with taking part in the notorious November 17 terrorist group, confessed on Sunday to pulling the trigger in a drive-by shooting two years ago that left a British diplomat dead, judicial sources said.

    Xiros, hospitalized since a botched bomb attack in June, told a magistrate that he shot military attache Stephen Saunders in Athens after a member of the group assigned to the slaying was foiled by a gun that wouldn't fire, the sources said.

    Authorities have been unraveling November 17 since the failed bomb attack in Piraeus that left Xiros, a 40-year-old church mural painter, seriously injured when the device he was carrying exploded in his hand.

    The police campaign has included a barrage of arrests; raids on arms caches, safe houses and homes; and probes into computer records, phone calls and bank accounts. Trial dates have yet to be set.

    The UK brigadier's murder in 2000 was apparently the last of 23 killings in the urban guerrilla group's 27-year history.

    In a marathon daylong session in hospital with appeals magistrate Leonidas Zervombeakos, Xiros gave evidence on the eight criminal charges he faces involving 85 attacks carried out by November 17.

    Also present at the Evangelismos Hospital, where Xiros is being treated, was appeals prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos.

    Xiros, who was remanded in custody on Sunday, also said that the man who was supposed to shoot Saunders was Dimitris Koufontinas, currently the country's most wanted terrorism suspect, the judicial sources said.

    Koufontinas, a professional beekeeper, has gone into hiding, sparking a nationwide search and request for help from Interpol as he may have fled the country.

    Xiros is to remain in hospital for another 10 days.

    Giotopoulos named as N17's leader: The same sources said that Alexander Giotopoulos, 58, viewed as a co-founder of November 17 and the author of its proclamations, was believed to have been present at Saunder's shooting. Giotopoulos has denied all involvement in the group.

    Xiros said he recognized Giotopoulos as November 17's leader, adding that Giotopoulos had also instigated the slaying of New Democracy deputy Pavlos Bakoyiannis in 1989, whom the group claimed had abandoned leftist political beliefs and shifted to the right.

    In addition, Xiros claimed to have shot shipowner Costis Peratikos, who was murdered in a Piraeus street in 1997.

    The group's next target was to have been Piraeus-based Agoudimos Lines, a passenger shipper, to protest against the Samina shipwreck in 2000. The vessel was owned by Minoan Flying Dolphins, another company.

    Xiros also claimed to have been present at other assassinations perpetrated by the group, including that of US narcotics department officer George Carros; and at attempted murders.

    November 17 had no links to other terrorist groups in Greece or abroad; and most of the money to finance its attacks, which came from robberies and other crimes, went to Giotopoulos. Koufontinas managed much of the cash, Xiros was quoted as saying.

    He also claimed that Theologos Psaradellis, charged with involvement in November 17, was not in fact a member.

    Police track links among urban guerrilla groups: Police are currently investigating links among domestic terrorism groups, with the May 1 organization apparently the connecting link between November 17 and ELA, which may have provided personnel for N17, sources said on Sunday.

    Members of ELA may be assisting Koufontinas in his attempt to evade the authorities, the sources said.

    US ambassador welcomes re-arrest of acquitted man: The US Ambassador to Greece, Thomas Miller, has welcomed the re-arrest of a man formerly cleared of the attempted murder of a police officer in Athens 10 years ago following annulment by the Supreme Court of an appeals court acquittal.

    Avraam Lesperoglou, 49, was remanded in custody until his trial on September 9.

    In an interview to the Ethnos on Sunday newspaper, Miller also claimed that there was enough evidence to convict George Balafas, who was acquitted of terrorism-related charges.

    ''There was enough evidence (for conviction),'' Miller said.

    He also claimed that in the current wave of arrests, there was enough evidence of guilt to lead to conviction.

    He added that much work had yet to be done on arrests, and that opportunities that had arisen in the past to unravel terrorism in Greece ''had not been exploited.''

    Asked if he would unreservedly urge Americans to attend the Athens 2004 Olympics from the point of view of security, Miller replied: ''This is a difficult question to answer.....Instead of forecasting whether the games will be safe or not, I would prefer it if we worked hard, along with the Greek government.''

    [02] Bush praises Greek PM for progress on combatting terrorism

    Athens, 12/08/2002 (ANA)

    US President George Bush has welcomed progress by Greece in combatting terrorism as police come close to unraveling the notorious November 17 terrorist group.

    In a letter to Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Bush said the Greek government's current action against terrorism was a sign of broader cooperation between the two countries in the battle against terrorism.

    The progress made in combatting terrorism would have a favorable impact on security for the 2004 Olympic Games to be hosted by Athens, he added.

    [03] Weapon found near president's home not army issue

    Athens, 12/08/2002 (ANA)

    A gun found dumped in a carrier bag near the home of President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos does not belong to the army, its general staff said on Sunday.

    The FN-type weapon was found on Saturday wrapped in newspaper near a motorcycle parked in the Athens suburb of Paleo Psychiko along with a magazine and eight 9-millimetre cartridges.

    The owner of the vehicle reported the find to police, who said they had no record of the weapon being used in a crime.

    [04] PM, opposition leader welcome sprinter's historic gold

    Athens, 12/08/2002 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis and main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis on Saturday welcomed a stunning gold-medal victory at the European athletics championships by sprinter Konstantinos Kenteris, who completed an historic treble.

    Kenteris, 29, won the final of the 200 meters in Munich on Fri-day, becoming the first man to hold the Olympic, world and European titles for his event.

    He clocked 19.85 seconds, the fastest European time over the distance behind Italian Pietro Mennea, who set the continental record in 1979 of 19.72 seconds at a race in Mexico.

    ''I ran a divine bend,'' he told reporters after his victory. ''Of course, it's hard to say now, but I think I have a shot at breaking the European record, being the fastest European at sea level,'' Reuters news agency quoted Kenteris as saying.

    [05] State doctors launch 48-hour strike Monday

    Athens, 12/08/2002 (ANA)

    Doctors in state health centers and medical practices are to be-gin a 48-hour strike on Monday in a running dispute with the government over pay and status.

    Employed by the Social Security Foundation, the doctors are seeking payment of a monthly allowance given to staff in state agencies overseen by the health ministry; and salaried status for 5,500 colleagues hired on a contractual basis.

    Minimum staff will report to work during the strike to handle emergencies, as required by law.

    [06] Ancient ship replica to set sail for Athens Olympics in May 2004

    Athens, 12/08/2002 (ANA)

    A replica of an ancient Greek ship found in waters off Cyprus will set sail on May 1, 2004 for the Olympic Games to be hosted by Athens three months later.

    The ''Kyreneia Eleftheria'' will carry bronze to Greece for the manufacture of medals in the world event, after departing from Amathounda in Cyprus, the site of an ancient port.

    In June 2004, a ceremony to present the bronze is to be held at the old Olympics stadium in central Athens.

    The vessel is due for launch on November 10 this year in a ceremony attended by the president of the Greek republic, Kostis Stephanopoulos.

    Two days later the ship will set sail for a short cruise off Cyprus, carrying the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, and the head of the event's national organizers, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.

    In April 2003, the vessel is to begin a seven-month cruise to ancient Greek ports in the Mediterranean.

    Construction of the ship is due to end in about a month.

    [07] Nine-year-old Greek wins top actor award at Locarno film festival

    Athens, 12/08/2002 (ANA)

    Nine-year-old Yiorgos Karayiannis has been awarded the best male actor award at the Locarno film festival for his performance in ''A Tough Farewell: My Father,'' directed by Penny Panayotopoulou.

    The film about death through the eyes of a child was well received by critics at the festival.

    Karayiannis was competing against stars including Gerard Depardieu and Robin Williams.

    [08] Christofias says Ankara to blame for deadlock

    NICOSIA, 12/08/2002 (CNA/ANA)

    House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias said on Sunday that Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash were to blame for the deadlock in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, due to their insistence on ''two separate states''.

    Speaking at a memorial service for Nicos Karasamanis, who was killed in 1974 defending Cyprus against the Turks, Christofias urged the international community to exert its influence on the Turkish side to be more constructive regarding the Cyprus problem, and also urged the UN Secretary General to abandon his ''equal distance'' stance.

    Christofias said the UN should make clear that they will not tolerate the Turkish side ignoring Security Council resolutions, adding that there can be no just and viable solution outside UN resolutions and international law.

    Speaking at a separate memorial service for those who died in the 1964 bombing of Tillyria by the Turks, Minister of Defense Socratis Hasikos said ''we are not disconcerted by Turkish threats and we will not give way to blackmail that would lead to the acceptance of the consequences of the Turkish invasion and occupation and the suspension of our EU accession course''.

    Hasikos said ''we are preparing ourselves both on a political and military level to avert such a possibility, which in any case we are ready to tackle with determination''.

    He noted that ''for this reason we are silently continuing to strengthen our defense'' and ''in this effort we have Greece and Hellenism as an ally and supporter''.

    Minister of the Interior Andreas Panayiotou, in a speech read out by the Ministry's Permanent Secretary Kyriacos Triantafyllides at a memorial service for Yiannakis Pappoulis, who was killed in 1974, said that ''a fundamental precondition to succeed in our struggle is unity'', adding that ''we must continue our multifaceted cooperation with Greece''.

    Panayiotou noted that ''we are ready for a constructive dialogue to find a workable and viable solution of the Cyprus problem, based on UN resolutions'', adding that ''we are struggling to reunite our island and accelerate our EU accession course''.

    [09] Hasikos says Cyprus must have strong defense

    LARNACA, 12/08/2002 (CNA/ANA)

    Minister of Defense Socratis Hasikos has said that Cyprus must have a strong dissuasive power in order to bring about a peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem and for the island to accede to the European Union.

    Speaking after Friday's swearing in ceremony of new recruits in Larnaca, Hasikos said ''everyone hopes that a solution of the Cyprus problem will finally be found and that Cyprus will peacefully proceed with its EU accession'', adding that in order for this to be achieved through peaceful means, ''there must be a strong dissuasive power and this force is the National Guard and the armed forces of the Republic of Cyprus''.

    National Guard Chief Lieutenant General Athanasios Nikolodemos said in an ordinance read out at the ceremony that Cyprus is proceeding towards the materialization of the strategic aim of acceding to the European Union, adding that the National Guard has undertaken the commitment to protect and defend the island from any enemy designs against it.

    Nikolodemos said ''we are a peaceful people and we pursue the recognition of our national rights'', adding however that ''in no case are we prepared to surrender homelands, to surrender even a drop of sea, a millimeter of land''.

    Similar ceremonies were held at other New Recruit Training Centers.

    [10] CPJ protests ''sentences'' of Turkish Cypriot journalists

    NEW YORK, 12/08/2002 (CNA/ANA)

    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York based non-profit, non-partisan organization, dedicated to the freedom of press around the world, issued on Friday a news alert following the illegal ''sentences'' imposed on editor-in-chief of Turkish Cypriot daily ''Afrika'', Sener Levent, and editor Memduh Ener, ''by a 'court' in the Turkish breakaway region of northern Cyprus, for libeling Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in a July 1999 article titled 'Who is the number one traitor?'''

    CPJ's 2001 world report, published this Spring, sharply criticized the Turkish Cypriot so-called ''authorities'' for harassing and intimidating independent media. A new protest is expected to be made soon, following the recent ''sentences''.

    The Committee's news alert, quoting the international press and its own sources, presents the long history of the harassment of ''Avrupa'' (predecessor of ''Afrika'') by the Turkish Cypriot ''authorities''.

    It says that the newspaper is known ''for its aggressive reporting on Denktash, senior politicians in Ankara, Turkey, and Turkish military officials based on the island'' and that during 2001 ''the newspaper received regular threats and was also the victim of several violent attacks''.

    ''On May 24, for example, a bomb blast caused significant damage to Avrupa's printing offices. CPJ protested the bombing, for which no one claimed responsibility'', it adds.

    CPJ also reports that ''the harassment of Avrupa intensified at the end of 2001 amidst Denktash's negotiations with Greek Cypriot leaders and international officials about reuniting the Mediterranean island, which has been divided since Turkey invaded the northern half in1974''.

    ''In November, northern Cypriot 'authorities' confiscated Avrupa's computers over an alleged unpaid 1997 tax debt. In December, 'officials' confiscated money and property from Avrupa in connection with a libel case that Denktash filed against the newspaper in 1999'',it notes.

    The Committee adds that ''on December 15, the newspaper reappeared after a brief absence and announced that it had changed its name to Afrika to illustrate its contention that 'the law of the jungle' ruled in northern Cyprus''.

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