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Protests and Vandalism Follow Hit Man’s Hunger Strike

ATHENS — A monthslong starvation strike by a jailed hit man for Greece’s deadliest terrorist group has fueled vehement debate right here in regards to the convict’s rights, with road protests and a barrage of arson assaults as a political battle about him intensifies.

The hit man, Dimitris Koufodinas, 63, is serving 11 life sentences and started his starvation strike on Jan. 8, after the authorities rejected his demand for a jail switch. He was imprisoned for his position within the actions of a far-leftist guerrilla group often known as November 17 that was energetic from 1975 to 2002.

The group killed 23 individuals, together with a C.I.A. station chief in Athens, a British army attaché and a number of Greek businessmen, in addition to Pavlos Bakoyannis, the brother-in-law of the present conservative prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Mr. Koufodinas had requested a switch from a jail in central Greece to the Korydallos Prison in Athens, the place he was initially incarcerated in 2003 together with different members of November 17. He was moved into his present jail from a low-security facility in December.

The conservative authorities has refused to offer in, accusing the convicted man — who has efficiently used starvation strikes previously to press his calls for — of blackmail.

An announcement issued by Mr. Mitsotakis’s workplace on Saturday, shortly after docs signaled that Mr. Koufodinas’s well being had significantly deteriorated, stated the federal government wouldn’t allow “preferential treatment and violations of the law.”

As the standoff intensified, Mr. Koufodinas’s lawyer, Ioanna Kourtovik, on Wednesday accused the federal government of vindictive and unlawful techniques, saying she had lodged a authorized attraction for her shopper’s sentence to be suspended. “His life is at risk,” she instructed Greek tv.

The authorities’s laborious line and the convict’s deteriorating well being have caught the eye of leftist sympathizers and the Greek institution.

As his starvation strike entered its 54th day on Tuesday, 1000’s of individuals rallied in his assist in Athens for the second day in a row. Protests continued Wednesday.

The police had been out in drive after a spate of vandalism by anarchists expressing solidarity with Mr. Koufodinas. Police stations within the capital have been pelted with home made firebombs nearly day by day for the previous two months.

The matter has dominated social media in Greece. Several attorneys, lecturers and journalists have complained that their Facebook accounts have been restricted after they posted images of rallies in assist of Mr. Koufodinas or expressed assist for his rights.

The subject has divided Greek judges, with the nation’s union calling on the federal government to assessment its stance as different judges insist on impartiality. The kin of November 17’s victims, nevertheless, have requested Mr. Koufodinas to cease his starvation strike, saying it’s raking up painful reminiscences.

Opposition events have appealed to the federal government to vary course. The leftist Syriza occasion warned that Greece “must not become the first European country in 40 years to have a dead hunger striker,” whereas the center-left Movement for Change urged towards turning the convicted man right into a “symbol for struggle.”

Nicknamed “poison hand” by the Greek media, Mr. Koufodinas is an unlikely martyr, having by no means expressed remorse for his actions with November 17. The group’s identify derives from the date in 1973 when Greece’s oppressive army dictatorship quashed a pupil rebellion towards its rule, killing 23 individuals.

Some terrorism consultants worry the starvation strike might spur new violence because it galvanizes Greek anti-establishment teams. “These groups are already recruiting new members,” stated Mary Bossis, professor of worldwide safety on the University of Piraeus, close to Athens.

In the occasion of his demise, she stated, “we could even see a resurgence of domestic terrorism.”

Ms. Bossis blamed the impasse over Mr. Koufodinas on the failure of Greek political events to succeed in a consensus on the way to cope with terrorism and convicted terrorists.

Some opposition lawmakers have argued {that a} regulation handed by the conservatives final yr permits a jail switch. The authorities has rebuffed this declare, criticizing the earlier leftist administration as being too lenient with Mr. Koufodinas, transferring him to a low-security agricultural jail in 2018 when he was granted a number of furloughs.

“Since the 1970s, parties argued about how to tackle terrorists instead of seeking consensus,” Ms. Bossis stated. “We should have never reached this point.”

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Updated on April 13, 2021 2:11 am

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