Greeks debate the need to offer prison furloughs to terrorists and hardened criminals.
By H.K. Tzanis for Southeast European Times in Athens -- 29/01/14
A video posted on the internet on January 20th showed Christodoulos Xiros vowing that he will continue his armed struggle against the Greek establishment. [AFP]
The disappearance of one of Greece's most notorious terrorists while on a prison furlough and his video pledge that he will resume his armed struggle is sending shock waves throughout the country.
Christodoulos Xiros, 56, failed to return to the high-security Korydallos prison in Athens on January 9th at the end of his seventh furlough release.
Xiros was serving six life sentences for murder and other terror-related crimes in 2003, which he committed as a member the notorious November 17 Marxist terror group.
The video featuring Xiros was posted on January 20th on the Indymedia website, which is often used by self-styled anti-establishment and anti-state groups.
The video showed a stone-faced Xiros vowing to continue the November 17 armed struggle, along with numerous threats and taunts toward authorities.
"Obviously, Xiros' escape points to the need for certain categories of convicts not to be allowed out on furlough; changes are definitely needed. However, under the current legal framework, his furlough could not have been stopped," Dimitris Verversos, board member and former vice president of the Athens Bar Association, told SETimes.
Under the present system, the correctional facility's warden, the highest ranking prosecutor whose jurisdiction includes the prison, and the facility's senior social worker must unanimously approve any furlough.
The Korydallos prison warden was suspended because of Xiros's escape in light of the questionable management of a handful of other terror-related suspects still held in the prison.
Meanwhile, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias announced an unprecedented 4 million euro reward for information that will lead to the arrest of four fugitives and suspected urban terrorists, including Xiros.
Also, the government offered a bounty of 1 million euros for information leading to the culprits behind the murder of two men outside the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party's regional office in Athens last November.
The government appeared set to unveil changes in the prison furlough regime.
"We are re-examining the entire legal framework for granting leave to convicts, and especially these types of convicts," said Justice Minister Charalambos Athanasiou.
Greek police said 28 convicts failed to return to prison upon the end of their furloughs during the first half of 2013.
At least three are suspected of committing new crimes.
Furlough supporters pointed out that the 28 violators are a tiny fraction of the 1,889 furloughs granted to convicts around the country during the same period.
The international community, however, expressed concern about the security implications of Xiros's disappearance even prior to his posting the video, and called on the Greek government to bring him back to prison.
"We are deeply concerned that convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros, a central member of the 17 November terrorist organisation that killed five US mission employees, is missing after a furlough from prison," said Jennifer Psaki, spokesperson for the US State Department.
In the video, Xiros vilified law enforcement, the media, judicial officials and politicians, and warned police not to attempt to take him alive.
He also released a lengthy letter, threatening that November 17 will resume violent attacks.
Dora Bakoyannis, former foreign affairs minister whose husband Pavlos was gunned down by November 17 assassins in 1989, expressed indignation but also confidence that law enforcement will catch Xiros.
"Christodoulos Xiros is a ruthless serial killer, who persists in attempting to exploit the moral superiority of democracy. He will return to his place in prison, where he belongs," she said in a statement.
What can the Greek authorities do to ensure convicted terrorists and hardened criminals are not offered furloughs? Add your comments below.