Greek far-left assassin moved to farm prison amid criticism

Greek far-left assassin moved to farm prison amid criticism

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse

A Greek far-left militant convicted for multiple murders was moved to a farm prison Monday, officials said, days after the government was criticised for a similar move last week.

Christodoulos Xiros, a 60-year-old leading member of the defunct November 17 extremist organisation, was moved from maximum security Korydallos prison in Athens to a farm prison in Halkida, justice ministry sources said.

The move came just days after another ex-November 17 assassin, 60-year-old Dimitris Koufontinas, was likewise moved to another farm prison in Volos, where inmates engage in open-air manual labor.

The decision by the leftist-led government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was strongly condemned by victims’ families and foreign governments who have lost nationals to the outfit.

The shadow November 17 group, named after an anti-junta student uprising, was behind the 1975 killing of the CIA’s Athens station chief Richard Welch, and claimed responsibility for assassinating 23 people in scores of attacks on US, British, Turkish and Greek targets between the 1970s and 1990s.

US state department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Aug. 3 said Koufontinas “is inspiring the next generation of terrorists.”         

“We condemn in the strongest terms furloughs or any easing of his prison stay,” she said in a statement.

The Turkish foreign ministry also called Koufontinas’ transfer “disrespectful” to the memory of Turkish diplomats slain by the group.

“We strongly condemn the fact that Kufodinas, who had been given the right to furlough three times before, will enjoy this transfer to the open agricultural prison. This has once again strengthened our doubts about the functioning of the judicial system in Greece,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Aug. 3.

“Granting tolerance to a terrorist disrespects the memory of our diplomats who were martyred and their families. It is unacceptable that a terrorist attempting lives of our diplomats can take advantage of such regulations,” it added.

The Greek justice ministry said the transfers were part of a policy to turn Korydallos into a correctional facility for suspects in pre-trial detention.

There was similar criticism in recent months when Koufontinas -- November 17’s top hitman and a hero figure to radical anarchists in Greece -- was briefly allowed out on leave on three occasions.

Members of the ruling Syriza party have repeatedly been accused by opposition critics of ideological links to the far-left and of being soft on far-left extremism.

Xiros had gone missing after been given leave in 2014 by a non-leftist government. He was recaptured several months later.

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