Suspected anarchist bombers on trial in Greece

AFP January 15

ATHENS, Greece – The trial of 13 suspected members of a Greek radical anarchist group that has staged bomb attacks against state buildings and foreign embassies begins Monday, opening a new chapter in the long history of political violence in Greece.

Two of the suspects, aged between 19 and 30, have recognized their involvement in the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei outfit that in November sent a wave of parcel bombs to foreign missions in Athens and a trio of European leaders abroad.

Four are still at large and will be tried in absentia.

The trial, presided by three judges and without a jury, will be held in a converted courtroom inside Athens’ high security Korydallos prison where the members of two other Greek extremist groups, November 17 and Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), have been tried in the past.

The members of November 17, convicted of a 25-year run of assassinations that left over 20 dead, are still imprisoned there.

Seen as the latest generation in a three-decade run of far-left extremism in Greece — legacy of a brutal military dictatorship — Conspiracy became prominent in 2008 with a series of attacks against the homes and offices of politicians.

“Their goal is to topple the government and provoke chaos,” says political scientist Mairy Bossi.

“Their messages resemble war declarations . . . but they offer no solution to the problem,” she told AFP.

“The system is the enemy and they seek to overthrow it,” adds Ioanna Kourtovik, a prominent rights lawyer who defended November 17’s top assassin nearly a decade ago, and now represents one of the Conspiracy suspects.

The organization has shown a growing aptitude in handling explosives and unlike other Greek groups who were silenced by police arrests, it has apparently survived two waves of roundups to continue its attacks.

In December, just weeks after police raided several safehouses and caught two of its alleged members, the group placed a time bomb outside a court in Athens and used the hit to threaten justice officials ahead of the trial.

“Modern inquisitors and judges, we publicly pledge that for every year of prison sentence heard by our brothers we will place a kilo of explosives in your house yards, your cars, your offices,” read a text posted on the Greek Indymedia website in december.

Police had also thought they had dealt the group a death blow in 2009 after a time bomb and explosives were found in raids on two houses in Athens, followed by arrests. But the attacks, generally preceded by alert calls, did not stop.

In November, Conspiracy set its sights on more prominent targets. Among the intended recipients in its parcel bomb campaign were French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Previously, it had upgraded its technology from gas canister incendiaries — the staple weapon of Greek anarchists — to small bombs hidden inside pressure cookers.

When police raided a number of suspected extremist hideouts in early December, making more arrests, they found assault rifles and submachine guns, grenades, bullet-proof vests and industrial-grade explosives.

Two of the suspects caught during the raids were already wanted in connection with Conspiracy activity.

Conspiracy’s parcel bomb spree in November was followed a month later by a spate of similar attacks in Rome that injured two people at the embassies of Switzerland and Chile and also targeted the Greek embassy.

It was claimed by an Italian anarchist group calling itself the Informal Federation of Anarchy, or FAI under its Italian acronym, which immediately expressed support to jailed Greek suspected militants.

Domestic extremism in Greece, mainly associated with the far-left and radical anarchists, has left some 30 people dead in the past three decades including a CIA station chief, a British military attache, police officers, journalists and businessmen.

Police considered the matter closed after the demise of older groups November 17 and ELA at the start of the decade.

But social malaise in Greece stemming from decades of political corruption and soaring youth unemployment soon gave rise to new urban militancy.

And extremist hits against police and business targets intensified after police fatally shot a teenager in December 2008, unleashing a wave of youth protests and violence which emboldened radical groups according to analysts.

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