FT on Koufodinas: Hitman’s walkabout revives terrorism fears ahead of Greek polls

4 March 2019
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Financial Times’s correspondent in Athens Kerin Hope reports that there are fears of a possible terrorist attack in the country ahead of elections after “November 17” terrorist group hitman Dimitris Koufodinas walkout of the prison. The FT article, titled “Hitman’s walkabout revives terrorism fears ahead of Greek polls” covers the Greek public’s reaction at the sight of Koufodinas strolling around in downtown Athens, as well as the concerns raised by Greek terrorism pundits, stressing that extremist groups could disrupt the electoral process by staging attacks.

When Greece’s most notorious convicted terrorist took a stroll through central Athens earlier this year, passers-by were stunned. “He looked familiar because I’d seen his face on television so many times. I didn’t believe at first he was [Dimitris] Koufodinas,” said Danae, a pharmacist. Mr Koufodinas, once the public face of November 17, a leftwing extremist group, is serving 11 life sentences for the murder of several foreign diplomats and Greek businessmen more than two decades ago. The former hitman, who is due for release in 2021 and has never expressed remorse, has been temporarily released from prison on five occasions in the past year. Although Mr Koufodinas’s most recent request for leave was refused, his increased visibility in recent months has sparked fears of a return of extremist violence ahead of this year’s elections. With his stroll through Athens, Mr Koufodinas “was sending a message that he’s here and he’s still a committed revolutionary’’, one counter-terrorism expert said. “And his recent lenient treatment at the hands of the justice ministry plays well with parts of [ruling party] Syriza’s leftwing voter base.” Opinion polls show that Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, is trailing six to 10 points behind the centre-right opposition New Democracy party under Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the son of a former premier. Pavlos Bakoyannis, Mr Mitsotakis’s brother-in-law, was killed in an N17 attack. The walkabout “was an insult to Pavlos’s memory . . . [Koufodinas] made a point of walking past places where the group staged attacks”, said Dora Bakoyannis, Mr Mitsotakis’s sister and a former foreign minister.

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