Three weeks back I wrote about three juicy bits of news I’d picked up in the Greek press. I said they were the sorts of stories I’d love to comment on had I not sworn to refrain from that kind of thing over the holidays. Well, the holidays are bye-bye, so hello to my take on a story that I can’t believe is true.
Here’s what I wrote three weeks ago:
“As reported by Ekathimerini, Greece’s equivalent of The New York Times, convicted terrorist Savvas Xeros—currently serving five consecutive life sentences plus an additional 25 years for his involvement in the November 17 terror group’s 27-year reign of terror covering 23 assassinations and thousands of related crimes—was granted a one-month furlough from prison by a Piraeus court on Thursday so that he could undergo medical treatment in a university hospital. The issue stirred controversy in Parliament between opposition SYRIZA and ruling New Democracy, with the former’s human rights committee saying that the continued detention of an inmate diagnosed with serious health problems constitutes ‘inhumane treatment,’ and the ruling party accusing the ‘leftists’ of ‘trying to achieve the release of the murderer and terrorist by intervening in justice.’”
In other words a certified want-to-kill-as-many-of-you-as-I-can terrorist was granted a furlough allowing him to walk about as a free man. Because furlough means just that, you’re on your own, just report in.
Imagine Timothy McVeigh (Osama bin Laden is too obvious an example (though both are dead)) allowed out on furlough in Oklahoma City.
For those who see this as a positive example of prison reform in action, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Greek prisons are the most overcrowded in Europe. Reform is desperately needed, but awarding furloughs to such notorious assassins is not reform, it’s an invitation for disaster. Hey, I’m all for prison reform, I spent five year as special counsel to the NYC government organization responsible for that very thing, but I also know there are some inside who should never get out.
Then there are those close friends of mine who lost loved ones to November 17 and find no furloughs from memories of their murders.
But that news is three weeks old, what’s in this week’s paper? Well, shiver me timbers, matey, what is that headline I see before me in Ekathimerini: “Manhunt Under Way After November 17 Convict Fails to Report to Police.”
|November 17 Flag|
No, it can’t be. Not our guy from three weeks ago. What was his last name…Xeros, that’s it. So what’s the story? Here what follows the headline:
“Police launched a nationwide manhunt on Tuesday after a convicted November 17 member Christodoulos Xeros failed to report in as part of his furlough obligations, prompting authorities to herald a review of the rights of prison inmates serving time for terrorism and other serious crimes.
“Xeros was granted a nine-day furlough on January 1 but failed to report to police on Tuesday after presenting himself to the authorities regularly on the previous days, prompting the alert. The 55-year-old has been serving multiple life terms at Korydallos Prison in Athens.
“Xeros’s lawyer Frangiskos Ragousis interpreted his client’s disappearance as ‘a political escape.’ ‘It is an act in line with his revolutionary action,’ he said….
“Police are believed to be investigating possible links between Xeros and other groups amid fears of a resurgence in domestic terrorism.
“In an Internet statement, jailed members of Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, another guerrilla group, expressed solidarity with Xeros and declared that ‘the time to attack has come.’
“The authorities have intensified efforts to crack down on terrorism following an attack last week on the Athens residence of German Ambassador Wolfgang Dold. Police are examining evidence from the scene of the attack amid speculation of the possible involvement of Nikos Maziotis, the convicted leader of another guerrilla group, Revolutionary Struggle, who has been at large since summer 2012 after failing to respect the terms of his furlough.”
Wait a minute, hold the phone…or in this case the Molotov cocktail and AK-47...am I reading that correctly? A year before this escape, another furloughed, convicted, terrorist assassin also just never bothered to come back to prison?
According to the Greek media, it’s worse than that: he’s back in the terrorism business, with the new escapee expected to follow.
|Revolutionary Struggle symbol|
But how could something this preposterous occur? It’s the sort of story line no one would ever believe if I wrote it. And now it’s happened (at least) twice. Apparently under Greek law, “inmates serving life terms can be let out for a few days after serving at least eight years, provided prison and judicial authorities deem that they are not likely to escape or commit new crimes.”
You have got to love that line “provided prison and judicial authorities.” Seems fair, seems just, seems to play right into the everyday Greek’s view of their system. I defy you to find a Greek who doesn’t think there were shenanigans involved in both terrorists’ furloughs. The more paranoid and conspiratorial of the thinkers will call it—as Xeros’ lawyer did—a political escape, one engineered by politicians and officials sympathetic to the escapees’ politics.
This embarrassment couldn’t have come at a worse time for Greece’s government. Its coalition is desperately trying to project an image of stability and order as Greece assumes the Presidency of the European Union. The Greek government banned demonstrations during the official installation ceremonies and pulled the plug on a visit by EU parliamentarians touring troubled European economies to assess the huge social, economic, and democratic harm caused by the Troika and its austerity measures on those suffering countries (including Greece).
And for those of you looking for a romantic angle to all of this, an Ekathimerini article yesterday reported that police believe they’re “closing in” on Xeros, after having checked the home of a “young teacher who is alleged to have become involved with Xeros during his previous furloughs.” And yes, it did say previous furloughs.
Furloughed fugitive Christoudoulos Xeros smiling.
This story and its ramifications are far from over.
By the way, I was wrong about the terrorist who escaped this week. Yes, his last name is Xeros, but he’s not he one I wrote about three weeks ago. That one’s first name is Savvas, and he’s the brother of the one who escaped. Both were convicted of essentially the same crimes, with the fugitive serving a 1,376-year prison term.
Hard to imagine why someone facing that sort of time wouldn’t want to go back to prison.
But what about the brother, the one I wrote about? Surely they’re going to cancel his furlough. After all, his brother’s lawyer literally told the world what to expect: a “political escape.’’
Think about that as you read this final line in the Ekathimerini article:
“In a related development on Tuesday police transferred another November 17 convict, Xeros’s brother Savvas, from Korydallos Prison to a hospital in Larissa, central Greece, following the latter’s petition to undergo treatment for multiple sclerosis.”
For those gamblers among you, I wonder what the Vegas line is on how long until Savvas disappears?