WASHINGTON — The Obama Administration placed two Greek far-left militants on a terrorism blacklist April 21 amid concerns that a third could soon be released from prison to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.
The State Department added Christodoulos Xiros and Nikolaos Maziotis to the blacklist that freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdictions. It also prohibits Americans from any transactions with them.
Xiros was a member of the November 17 group that killed more than 20 people, including Americans, between 1975 and 2000. Maziotis is the leader of Revolutionary Struggle, a group held responsible for a 2007 grenade attack on the U.S. Embassy in Athens.
The designations come as Washington has complained that another November 17 member, Savvas Xiros, may complete his prison term under home confinement. Xiros, who is disabled, could benefit from new Greek legislation that would allow him to serve the remainder of his five life sentences under home confinement.
Savvas Xiros, a member of the Marxist-nationalist November 17 group, lost most of his sight and hearing when a bomb exploded in his hands in 2002.
The explosion led to his arrest and the dismantling of the group, which killed 23 people between 1975 and 2000, including U.S., British and Turkish nationals.
U.S. Ambassador David Pearce said that allowing Xiros, 53, to leave prison would be regarded by the U.S. as “a profoundly unfriendly act” and that the new Greek law is “inconsistent” with the good partnership between the two NATO allies.
The issue was discussed during talks in Washington between Secretary of State John Kerry and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.
Kotzias, in an interview with The Associated Press, said that if Xiros seeks a change of confinement under the new law, the request would have to be approved by a Greek court.
Moreover, Kotzias said he told Kerry that Greece would seek U.S. cooperation to obtain technology for a house arrest ankle bracelet.
Kotzias said the new law was a response to a European court of human rights decision criticizing conditions in Greek prisons.
“So the government, after the decision of the European court of human rights, took the humanitarian decision that people who have an 80 percent disability or more can go to other forms of being prisoners,” he said.
Savvas Xiros, blind and suffering from multiple sclerosis, is 98 percent disabled, Kotzias said, without mentioning he did to himself and is asking mercy while unrepentant for his murders, including car bombings.
Greek opposition parties and relatives of November 17’s victims have also strongly protested the new law.
Kerry, in diplomatic language, showed American displeasure at the move while trying to maintain, as best he could through the tension, relations between the countries as critics said the new Radical Left SYRIZA-led government Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras harbors sympathies for anarchists and terrorists and wants to empty the jails of them.
“Our efforts on counter-terrorism could not be more important together in the future. Obviously, we’re very concerned that those who have committed acts of terrorism who’ve been incarcerated need to remain incarcerated,” said Kerry.
The move to free Savvas Xiros was ridiculed by political opponents in Greece who said releasing Xiros because he’s disabled – from a bomb he was making to kill others – was like a boy killing his parents and asking the court for mercy because he’s an orphan.
Kotzias tried to explain that house arrest was incarceration although Pearce had said it’s not the same when Xiros’ victims are dead and he can be in his own house.
“I’m here as a friend – as a friend with somebody who’s working together with us for democracy and peace against terrorism,” Kotzias said. “And I hope that our relations will be deepened and that we will find new feat of cooperation.
I” think I can – we can be sure that the new law in Greece about the prisoners will not let any terrorists become free. It will be not only a test of the detention of – the way of this detention, nobody will become free,” he said, trying to assure Kerry and the American government.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)
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