Revolutionary Organization 17 November
Revolutionary Organization 17 November (Greek: Επαναστατική Οργάνωση 17 Νοέμβρη, Epanastatiki Organosi dekaefta Noemvri), also known as 17N or the 17 November Group, was a Greek far-left militant terrorist organization formed in 1975 and led by Alexandros Giotopoulos. 17N conducted an extensive urban guerrilla campaign against the Greek state, banks, and businesses, as well as American, Turkish, and British targets. The organization committed 103 known armed robberies, assassinations, and bombing attacks, during which 23 people were killed. 17N was designated a terrorist group by Greece, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the United States, and disbanded in 2002 after the arrest and trial of many of its members.
|Revolutionary Organization 17 November|
|Επαναστατική Οργάνωση 17 Νοέμβρη|
Flag of 17N
|Leader(s)||Alexandros Giotopoulos, Dimitris Koufodinas|
Other members: Savvas Xiros, Christodoulos Xiros, Vasilis Xiros, Vasilis Tzortzatos
|Dates of operation||1975–2002|
The group's name, 17N, refers to the final day of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising, in which a protest against the Greek Military Junta (1967–1974), also known as the Regime of the Colonels, took place. The uprising was bloodily suppressed by the army.
In addition to assassinations, kidnappings, and symbolic attacks on corporate and government offices, 17N supported its operations with at least 11 bank robberies, netting approximately US$3.5 million. Members of 17N kept detailed financial records, found in one of their safe houses in 2002, to document that the stolen money was used for revolutionary purposes.
17N's first attack, on 23 December 1975, was against the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Athens, Richard Welch. Welch was gunned down outside his residence by three assailants, in front of his wife and driver.:67 17N's repeated claims of responsibility were ignored until December 1976, when it murdered the former intelligence Chief of the Greek security police, Evangelos Mallios, and left its proclamation at the scene. In January 1980, 17N murdered Pantelis Petrou, the deputy director of the riot police (MAT), and his driver. It also intervened with two long proclamations offering theoretical guidance to the Greek armed struggle and criticizing a rival group, Revolutionary People's Struggle (ELA), for poor target selection and operational incompetence.
17N resumed its attacks in November 1983, killing the deputy chief of the Joint United States Military Aid Group to Greece George Tsantes. In 1985, it broadened its targeting with the murder of conservative newspaper publisher Nikos Momferatos. The proclamation left near his body accused Momferatos of CIA connections and complained that Greece "remained a puppet regime in the hands of the American imperialists and the economic establishment." In 1986, 17N murdered Dimitris Angelopoulos, one of Greece's leading industrialists, charging that he and other members of Greece's "lumpen big bourgeoisie class" were plundering Greece at the expense of workers.
17N responded to the 1988 George Koskotas scandal with a wave of murders and kidnappings. In the 1989 parliamentary elections, 17N urged voters to deface their ballots with the 17N star. The assassination of New Democracy member of parliament Pavlos Bakoyannis in September 1989 prompted public outrage, including among Greek communists who respected Bakoyannis as a courageous anti-Junta journalist. The group abandoned its electoral pretensions and took a more nationalist turn.
Other victims included US Navy Captain William Nordeen, the U.S. defense attache, whose car was destroyed by a car bomb a few meters from his residence on 28 June 1988, and U.S. Air Force Sergeant Ronald O. Stewart, who was killed by a remotely-detonated bomb outside his apartment on 12 March 1991.
In addition to its anti-capitalist agenda, the group was also opposed to Turkey and NATO. Çetin Görgü, the Turkish press attaché, was shot in his car on 7 October 1991; Ömer Haluk Sipahioğlu, a Turkish embassy counselor, was shot on an Athens street on 4 July 1994; ship and shipyard owner Constantinos Peratikos was shot leaving his office on 28 May 1997; and British military attaché Brigadier Stephen Saunders was shot on 8 June 2000.
17N used two .45 M1911 semi-automatics as its "signature weapons". While face-to-face assassination was the early modus operandi, in 1985 the group exploded its first bomb, targeting a bus full of riot police; a long cable was used to detonate explosives made of stolen quarrying explosives, which killed one.
In October 1986, 17N bombed four tax offices in its first low-level attack against property. In December 1989, 17N stole 114 obsolete anti-tank rockets from a poorly-guarded Greek military depot in Sykourion of Larissa . Between 1990 and 1999, 17N conducted 24 rocket attacks, all but three of them aimed at property rather than human targets. In November 1990, a rocket attack against the armored limousine of shipowner Vardis Vardinogiannis failed.
In 1991, 17N rocketed also a riot police bus, killing one officer and wounding 14. In July 1992, a young passerby, Thanos Axarlian, was killed in a failed rocket attack on Economy Minister Ioannis Paleokrassas.
After their inaugural attack on the CIA station chief, the group tried to get mainstream newspapers to publish their manifesto. Their first proclamation, claiming the murder of Richard Welch, was first sent to "Libération" in Paris, France. It was given to the publisher of "Libération" via the offices of Jean-Paul Sartre, but was not published. After subsequent attacks, 17N usually sent a communique to the Eleftherotypia newspaper. The group argued in its communiques that it wanted to rid Greece of U.S. bases, to remove the Turkish military from Cyprus, and to sever Greece's ties to NATO and the European Union.
On 7 April 1998, the group used a stolen anti-armor rocket to attack a downtown branch of the American Citibank, which caused damage but no injuries, as the warhead did not explode. The rocket was fired by remote control from a private car parked outside the bank on Drossopoulou street in the downtown district of Kypseli.
17N's known murdered (23) and injured victims include:
- Richard Welch, CIA station chief in Athens. (23 December 1975)
- Evangelos Mallios, policeman who was accused of torturing political prisoners during the period of military junta. (14 December 1976)
- Pantelis Petrou, deputy commander of the Greek police Riot Control Unit (M.A.T.) (16 January 1980)
- Sotiris Stamoulis, driver of the above-mentioned. (16 January 1980)
- George Tsantes, a US Navy Captain, high level executive of JUSMAGG (15 November 1983)
- Nikos Veloutsos, driver of the above-mentioned. (15 November 1983)
- Robert H. Judd, Army Master Sergeant, Postal officer for JUSMAGG in Greece, wounded in an assassination attempt. (3 April 1984)
- Christos Matis, police guard, killed in a bank robbery. (24 December 1984)
- Nikos Momferatos, publisher of the "Apogevmatini" right-wing newspaper. (21 February 1985)
- Georgios Roussetis, driver of above-mentioned. (21 February 1985)
- Nikolaos Georgakopoulos, riot policeman, killed in bus bombing. (26 November 1985)
- Dimitrios Aggelopoulos, President of the board of Halyvourgiki S.A. (8 April 1986)
- Zacharias Kapsalakis, doctor and clinic owner, shot in the legs. (4 February 1987)
- Alexander Athanasiadis, industrialist. (1 March 1988)
- William Nordeen, a US Navy Captain, killed by a car bomb. (23 June 1988)
- Constantinos Androulidakis, a public prosecutor, is shot in both legs and dies slowly of complications. (10 January 1989)
- Panayiotis Tarasouleas, also a public prosecutor, is shot in both legs. (18 January 1989)
- Giorgos Petsos, PASOK MP and Minister, is injured in his car by a car bomb. (8 May 1989)
- Pavlos Bakoyannis, New Democracy MP (26 September 1989)
- Ronald O. Stewart, a US Air Force Sergeant, killed by a bomb. (13 March 1991)
- Deniz Bölükbaşı, Turkish Chargé d'Affaires, is injured by a car bomb. (16 July 1991)
- Çetin Görgü, Turkish Press attaché (7 October 1991)
- Yiannis Varis, a police officer, is killed in a missile and hand grenade attack against a riot squad bus (2 November 1991)
- Athanasios Axarlian, a student passer-by; killed by shrapnel during a rocket attack targeting the limousine of Finance Minister Ioannis Palaiokrassas. (14 July 1992)
- Eleftherios Papadimitriou, New Democracy party deputy and MP, is shot in both legs. (21 December 1992)
- Michael Vranopoulos, former governor of the National Bank of Greece. (24 January 1994)
- Ömer Haluk Sipahioğlu, counselor of the Turkish Embassy in Athens. (4 July 1994)
- Costis Peraticos, ship owner, owner of Eleusis Shipyards. (28 May 1997)
- Stephen Saunders, military attaché of the British Embassy in Athens. (15 June 2000)
On 29 June 2002 Greek authorities captured an injured suspect, Savvas Xiros, following a failed bombing attempt on the Minoan Flying Dolphins ferry company in Piraeus. A search of Xiros' person and interrogation led to the discovery of two safe houses and to the arrests of six more suspects, including two brothers of Savvas. A 58-year-old former mathematics student living underground since 1971, Alexandros Giotopoulos, was identified as the group leader and was arrested on 17 July 2002 on the island of Lipsi. On 5 September, Dimitris Koufodinas, identified as the group's chief of operations, surrendered to the authorities. In all, nineteen individuals were charged with some 2,500 offenses relating to the activities of N17.
The trial of the terrorist suspects commenced in Athens on 3 March 2003, with Christos Lambrou serving as the lead prosecutor for the Greek state. Because of the 20-year statute of limitations, crimes committed before 1984 (such as the killing of the CIA station chief) could not be tried by the court. On 8 December, fifteen of the accused, including Giotopoulos and Koufodinas, were found guilty; another four defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence. The convicted members were sentenced on 17 December 2003. All those convicted defendants appealed. On 3 May 2007, the convictions were upheld.
In early January 2014, Christodoulos Xyros, one of the imprisoned leaders of the organization, escaped from prison. On 6 January, he failed to report to the police after leaving prison under the condition to report to the police everyday, which he did six times in 18 months. He was taken into custody while riding a bicycle in the southern suburb of Anavyssos in early January 2015.
In 2018 the groups alleged hitman Dimitris Koufodinas was moved from Korydallos prison to a low security agricultural facility after the prison council approved his parole request, citing exemplary behaviour.
Some Greek officials considered Revolutionary Struggle (EA), the group that fired a Chinese-made RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy in Athens in January 2007, to be a spin-off of 17N. However, three self-admitted EA members arrested in April 2010 claimed that they were anarchists—a designation 17N rejected in its proclamations. For many years, leading politicians of the right-wing New Democracy party, as well as the conservative press, falsely claimed that Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou was the mastermind behind 17N. Virginia Tsouderou, who became Deputy Foreign Minister in the Mitsotakis government, and journalist Giorgos Karatzaferis (later the founder and leader of a right-wing party, LAOS) claimed that terrorism in Greece was controlled by Papandreist officers of Hellenic National Intelligence Service (the Greek security and intelligence service), and named Kostas Tsimas (the head of EYP) and Colonel Alexakis as two of the supposed controllers of 17N. However, after 17N members were arrested, the only connection between the terrorist organization and PASOK was the fact that Dimitris Koufontinas was a member of PAMK (the PASOK high school students organization) and an admirer of Andreas Papandreou in his late teens.
Other writers have also claimed that 17N may have been a tool of foreign secret services. In December 2005, Kleanthis Grivas published an article in To Proto Thema, a Greek Sunday newspaper, in which he accused "Sheepskin", the Greek branch of Gladio, NATO's stay-behind paramilitary organization during the Cold War, of the 1975 assassination of Welch, as well as of the 2000 assassination of Saunders. This was denied by the US State Department, which responded that "the Greek terrorist organization '17 November' was responsible for both assassinations", and asserted that Grivas' central piece of evidence had been the "Westmoreland Field Manual," which the State Department, as well as a Congressional inquiry, had dismissed as a Soviet forgery. The State Department also highlighted the fact that, in the case of Richard Welch, "Grivas bizarrely accuses the CIA of playing a role in the assassination of one of its own senior officials" as well as the Greek government's statements to the effect that the "stay behind" network had been dismantled in 1988.
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