Three alleged members of Greek terror group charged

Saturday, July 20, 2002

ATHENS, Greece -- An alleged leader of the elusive November 17 terrorist organization was charged with 13 murders Friday as Greek authorities bore down on the violent, left-wing group that had operated with impunity for 27 years.

Handcuffed and wearing a bulletproof vest, 58-year-old Alexandros Giotopoulos, an alleged founder and ideologist for the secretive group, was taken to an Athens court and read the murder and attempted murder charges against him. He denied them all.

Prosecutor Panagiotis Angelopoulos also filed murder charges against 48-year-old electrician Vassilis Tzortzatos for allegedly killing eight Greeks, including businessmen, politicians and police officers. Retired printer Theologos Psaradelis, 55, was charged with two counts of armed robbery.

With seven suspected members of the organization now in custody, police were conducting a nationwide hunt for other aging founders and members still at large.

Despite the sudden progress in the case -- which came as Greece faces intense international pressure to improve security in advance of the 2004 Olympic Games -- Socialist Premier Costas Simitis said much remained to be done to rid the country of terrorism.

Giotopoulos, who had been living under an assumed name, was arrested Wednesday on the eastern Aegean island of Lipsi, where he has a holiday home. Court authorities said he appeared stunned to be taken into custody.

November 17 first appeared with the 1975 assassination of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens, and has claimed responsibility for 22 killings, including those of four U.S. and two Turkish officials.

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