ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s supreme court on Tuesday examined the rejection of a furlough request by a hunger-striking extremist serving multiple life sentences for the killing of 11 people by Greece’s deadliest militant organization.
Dimitris Koufodinas, a hit man for the now defunct November 17 group which killed 23 people from 1975-2000, has been on hunger strike for more than two weeks over the refusal of his request for a leave of absence from prison. He was moved to intensive care in a hospital in the central city of Volos last week.
There has been a barrage of vandal attacks on high-profile targets in support of Koufodinas, 61, who was convicted in 2003 and was moved to a minimum-security agricultural prison last summer. He has received six furloughs since late 2017.
The latest vandalism occurred in the middle of the day Tuesday, when a group of about 10 people threw red paint at parliament and set off a smoke bomb. Other targets have included the U.S. ambassador’s home, banks, shops, political offices and police stations
The Rouvikonas anarchist group claimed responsibility for the parliament attack, as it had done for the paint-throwing against the exterior of the U.S. ambassador’s garden wall. Police said one person was arrested in connection with the parliament incident, while authorities launched an investigation into how the paint-throwers gained access to the building’s exterior.
Later Tuesday, riot police fired tear gas to disperse a group of anarchists who tried to vandalize electoral stands in central Athens before European Parliament and Greek local elections Sunday. The anarchists were holding a march to voice support for Koufodinas. No arrests were reported.
Tuesday’s hearing, which was to determine whether Koufodinas’ request should be re-examined, was held behind closed doors and with a heavy police guard. Supreme court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou, who had ordered a review of the decision to deny the furlough, has argued even those serving multiple life sentences are entitled to leaves of absence from prison.
The supreme court panel hearing the case is expected to issue a decision in the coming days. If it rules to accept the appeal against the denial, the case will be sent back to the Volos court which made the initial judgment for review. The supreme court itself does not rule on whether to grant the furlough.
November 17 professed a mixture of Marxism and nationalism. Its victims included American, British and Turkish diplomats, Greek politicians, businessmen, police and a Greek student. Koufodinas has claimed “political responsibility” for the group’s acts, and is serving 11 life terms.
He has vowed to continue his hunger strike “to the end” unless he is granted a new temporary prison leave. His previous furloughs and his move from the maximum security Korydallos prison near Athens to a minimum-security facility in central Greece were criticized by relatives of November 17 victims and U.S. authorities.