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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 commenced his starvation strike on Jan. 8, after the authorities rejected his demand for a jail switch. He was imprisoned for his function within the actions of a far-leftist guerrilla group often called November 17 that was lively from 1975 to 2002.

The group killed 23 folks, together with a C.I.A. station chief in Athens, a British navy attaché and several other 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 Jail 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 provide in, accusing the convicted man — who has efficiently used starvation strikes prior to now to press his calls for — of blackmail.

A press release 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 therapy and violations of the legislation.”

Because 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 enchantment for her consumer’s sentence to be suspended. “His life is in danger,” she informed Greek tv.

The federal government’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, hundreds of individuals rallied in his assist in Athens for the second day in a row. Protests continued Wednesday.

The police have 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 subject has dominated social media in Greece. A number of attorneys, teachers and journalists have complained that their Fb accounts have been restricted after they posted images of rallies in assist of Mr. Koufodinas or expressed assist for him.

The difficulty has divided Greek judges, with the nation’s union calling on the federal government to overview its stance as different judges insist on impartiality. The relations 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 alter course. The leftist Syriza Occasion warned that Greece “should not grow to be the primary European nation in 40 years to have a lifeless starvation striker,” whereas the center-left Motion for Change urged towards turning the convicted man right into a “image for battle.”

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 title derives from the date in 1973 when Greece’s oppressive navy dictatorship quashed a scholar rebellion towards its rule, killing 23 folks.

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

Within the occasion of his dying, she stated, “we might even see a resurgence of home terrorism.”

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

Some opposition lawmakers have argued {that a} legislation handed by the conservatives final yr permits a jail switch. The federal government 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.

“Because the Nineteen Seventies, events argued about easy methods to sort out terrorists as a substitute of in search of consensus,” Ms. Bossis stated. “We must always have by no means reached this level.”

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