Turkey, US slam Greece for granting militant group assassin jail leave
Turkey and the United States have slammed Greek authorities for granting a convicted assassin of a militant group a two-day leave from prison, with Ankara deeming the parole board ruling a “sheer disrespect.”
Dimitris Koufodinas, who left prison on Nov. 9, is serving several life terms for his role in Greece’s deadliest militant group November 17, which is responsible for the assassination of 23 people in 103 attacks, namely on U.S., British, Turkish and Greek nationals.
“Displaying tolerance to a bloodthirsty terrorist in this manner is a sheer disrespect to the memory of our martyred diplomats,” a statement released from the Turkish Foreign Ministry read, referring to Turkish Embassy diplomats in Athens killed between 1991 and 1994 by the group.
“It is not possible to understand how a terrorist who has repeatedly claimed the lives of our diplomats is given the opportunity to enjoy such an arrangement,” the statement added.
Prison authorities granted Koufodinas’ request for temporary leave from jail on condition he reports to a police station twice a day. It is his first such leave since he was jailed in 2003 and authorities said it was in compliance with regulations applying to all inmates.
The November 17 group was active in Greece between 1975 and 2002.
Turkish Press Attaché Cetin Görgü was killed in 1991 while Ömer Haluk Sipahioğlu, a counselor at the Turkish Embassy in Athens, was gunned down in front of his home in 1994.
Ambassador Deniz Bölükbaşı, Nilgün Keçeci, wife of the Turkish vice-consul, and driver Adil Yıldırım were also wounded in attacks reportedly carried out by the group.
On Jan. 1, 2014, one of the group’s members, Christodoulos Xiros, was granted furlough, but he vanished soon after. He was apprehended a year later.
Greek opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis condemned the latest decision regarding Koufodinas, saying it was “inconceivable.”
“It’s not just his despicable actions against democracy but because he’s never expressed any remorse for these actions and remains an ideological instructor for a new generation of terrorists,” said Mitsotakis, whose brother-in-law was gunned down by the militant group in 1989.
The U.S. also weighed in, condemning Athens’ decision during an afternoon press conference.
“When some of these November 17 people who’ve been convicted of murder have been let out on furlough in the past, they’ve disappeared. So we obviously have some concerns about that,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.
“We’re concerned that he won’t return,” she added.