THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2001
Demands for a terrorist crackdown irk Greece
By Andrew Marshall
Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Even by the shadowy standards of terrorist groups, the Revolutionary
Organization November 17 is a mysterious entity. In the past 26 years, it
has killed 23 people, including four American officials, a US Embassy
employee, and a British military attach.
While the CIA, the FBI, and Britain's Scotland Yard have at times assisted
Greek authorities in their investigations, no one has ever been arrested
for the murders.
Families of some of the victims - frustrated with the lack of results -
have begun a lobbying campaign that they hope will achieve what Greek
police haven't: bring those responsible to justice. And they hope the
attention Greece gets leading up to the 2004 Olympics, in Athens, will help.
On March 18, the BBC ran a highly critical documentary - which speculated
on possible ties between the terrorist group and an influential Greek
Nicos Peraticos, a London-based businessman whose brother was killed by
November 17 in 1997, says the families want "to take the opportunity to
remind anyone who would listen that there's this terrible unresolved
The US State Department and Congress have both criticized Athens for its
record on terrorism, charging the government with a lack of political will.
Some in Congress have even called for sanctions.
Behind the name
The name November 17 commemorates a student uprising against the military
junta that ran Greece from 1967 to 1974. Its first victim, in 1975, was
Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens. Others followed, each
accompanied by a rambling justification based on a struggle against
The murder last year of Brig. Stephen Saunders, the British defense attach
in Athens, brought the group back to public attention in Europe. November
17 said its ambush was in response to his alleged involvement in the 1999
NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia.
His widow, Heather Saunders, made a tearful appeal to Greek authorities at
the time: "For the sake and future of Greece within the European Community,
these wicked men must be brought to justice." Officers from Scotland Yard
flew to Greece to assist in the investigation. But since then, the case
seems to have dried up.
Mrs. Saunders and Mr. Peraticos, who are leaders of the lobbying effort,
hope that bringing the issue before policymakers and the public will
pressure the Greek government to take a more aggressive stance. On Sunday,
Saunders will unveil a plaque in her husband's memory at the British
Embassy in Athens.
The BBC's hour-long documentary ran on the eve of a visit to London by
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis. What most infuriated Greek officials
was its mention of one of many conspiracy theories that circulate about the
group: that November 17 has been shielded because it has ties to senior
members of PASOK, the socialist party that has been in power in Greece for
most of the past quarter-century. Ties may have been formed under the junta
between members of the group and leading socialists, the BBC program
That view is "absolutely preposterous," says Nicos Papadakis, press
counselor at the Greek Embassy in London. The program was prejudiced and
ill-informed, he says, noting that the great majority of November 17's
victims have been Greeks, not foreigners. What's more, he says, several of
the governments in power since the group appeared have been conservative -
including the current administration.
Mr. Papadakis expressed sympathy for the victims' families, saying Heather
Saunders is "a very dignified lady, and our heart and our sympathy go out
He says Greece's failure to catch any of the killers, "is a legitimate
"We are the first to recognize we have a problem," Papadakis adds.
The mysterious November 17
That problem lies in the lack of police resources and training, and in the
methodology and structure of November 17, he says. The group kills
irregularly, it appears to be very small, and it has never engaged in
indiscriminate acts of mass terror of the sort that might persuade others
to turn in the culprits.
November 17 is "a small, tightly compartmentalized organization," says
Bruce Hoffman, an expert on international terrorism at the Rand Corp. The
group is "not vulnerable to informants or agents provocateurs," he says.
And in terms of their professionalism, "their tradecraft is very good."
Papadakis says new legislation designed to combat terrorism and organized
crime will help. Among other provisions, it introduces a witness-protection
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