Court overturns terrorism convictions of 3 Greeks

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 12:26 PM

An appeals court on Thursday overturned the convictions of three Greeks who had been found guilty of belonging to a far-left terrorist group that was blamed for dozens of attacks on American targets.

Overall, the group Revolutionary Popular Struggle had been blamed for two murders and scores of murder attempts and bombings between 1975 and 1995.

Citing insufficient evidence, the five appeals court judges overturned a 2004 verdict which had convicted Christos Tsigaridas, 68; Irene Athanasaki, 55; and Angeletos Kanas, 58, of membership in a terrorist organization and sentenced each of them to 25 years in prison.

A fourth suspect, 58-year-old Costas Agipiou, died of cancer during the 13-month appeal, which was conducted inside the maximum security wing of an Athens prison.

Revolutionary Popular Struggle _ known by the Greek-language abbreviation ELA _ was one of the main militant groups that emerged following a 1967-74 military dictatorship in Greece, which received support from the United States.

ELA was seen as the forerunner of several other extremist organizations, including newer groups that have stepped up bombings and shooting attacks this year.

Before it disbanded in 1995, ELA frequently aimed its attacks at American targets in Greece, mostly in the early 1980s. They included the bombing of the U.S. ambassador's residence, embassy vehicles, as well as branches of American banks and companies.

The four suspected ELA members were arrested during a security crackdown ahead of the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

The original convictions hinged on testimony given by the ex-wife of one suspect. But the credibility of that testimony was treated with greater skepticism at the appeal.