Greek letter bomb ‘could have killed me’: minister

A letter bomb sent to Greek Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis could have killed if it had not been intercepted, he told journalists yesterday, blaming an anarchist group whose members are on trial.

Greek police on Wednesday defused the bomb addressed to Kastanidis after ministry staff raised the alarm, the day before the resumption of the trial of 13 suspected members of the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei.

Kastanidis said the explosive contained in the package, supposedly sent from an association of trainee lawyers, was more powerful than the one that killed a bodyguard of former police minister Michalis Chryssohoidis in June last year.

“According to investigators the assembly of the device points probably to the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei,” Kastanidis said, adding that “justice will not bend” and the trial would continue.

The hearings reopened yesterday but were boycotted by both the accused and defence lawyers, who have refused to cooperate with the court, with the prosecutor reading the indictment.

The suspects, aged between 19 and 30, face charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation, punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison.

Seen as the latest generation in a three-decade run of far-left extremism in Greece, the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei became prominent in 2008 with a series of attacks on the homes and offices of politicians.

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

It sent a wave of parcel bombs to foreign missions in Athens and a trio of European leaders abroad in November, and the following month placed a time bomb outside a court in Athens to threaten justice officials ahead of the opening of the current trial.

The proceedings were halted shortly after they first opened on January 17 when the accused protested entry controls to the courtroom set up in the Korydallos prison near Athens.

The second time fighting broke out between police and dozens of supporters of the defendants after they were again sent back to their cells.

Demanding that the proceedings be recorded, the defendants have also sacked their lawyers and rejected those appointed by the court to represent them. Fifty-four lawyers then refused to be named by the court, laying themselves open to sanctions and forcing the judge, apparently in vain, to ask those originally chosen by the accused to come back, with no guarantee of their acceptance.

The judge has said the practice of police guards retaining the identity cards of trial spectators during the hearings was justified by the court’s location in the prison. The demand for the trial to be recorded has also been rejected on grounds of cost.

The judge yesterday cited two higher court rulings for her decision to go ahead without the accused or the defence, while Kastanidis also criticised their behaviour.

The Greek Human Rights League said on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” about the proceedings, which could result in a denial of justice for the defendants, four of whom are being tried in their absence.

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