Greek Terror Suspects Vanish in Middle of Trial
Two suspected members of a Greek domestic terrorist group have gone missing in the middle of their trial, officials said Thursday, prompting orders for a judicial investigation and the suspension of an Athens police official.
Nikos Maziotis and his wife, Panagiota Roupa, have been on trial since October along with six other people as alleged members of Revolutionary Struggle, a group best known for firing a rocket-propelled grenade into the U.S. Embassy in Athens in 2007.
The group, which first appeared in 2003, has claimed responsibility for numerous bomb attacks in Athens, including against the Athens Stock Exchange, as well as for planting a massive bomb that failed to explode outside Citibank offices. It also claimed responsibility for a shooting that severely wounded a riot policeman in 2009.
The couple — who have admitted they are members of the group — were arrested in April 2010 but were released from jail in October last year after spending the maximum 18 months in pre-trail detention, a time during which they had claimed to be political prisoners.
They had been ordered to appear at a police station in the central Athens area of Exarchia three times a month, but authorities said Thursday they had missed their last two appointments, one on June 15 and one on July 1.
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident, while the head of the Exarchia precinct was suspended, police said in a statement. The Exarchia precinct had failed to notify superiors that the two had not shown up.
However, because they have already served the maximum time allowed for pre-trial detention, they would not be detained now if they were found, so no arrest warrant was immediately issued.
Maziotis, a self-described anarchist, previously served time in jail for planting a small bomb, which did not explode, outside a ministry building in 1997.
Greece suffered decades of domestic militant violence, but had cracked down before the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, eradicating its most notorious terrorist group, November 17.
Militant attacks spiked again after riots in December 2008 sparked by the fatal police shooting of a teenager in Athens, with new groups carrying out a string of bomb and gun attacks on symbols of wealth and authority.
In late 2010, an anarchist group carried out a spate of parcel bomb attacks targeting embassies in Athens or European leaders. One package made it to the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, while another was found on board a mail courier plane in Italy.
It had been addressed to then-Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
The most recent attack occurred last week, when assailants drove a stolen mini-van containing incendiary devices through the front doors of Microsoft's offices in Athens after forcing the night guards to leave at gunpoint. Nobody was hurt in the pre-dawn attack, which caused fire damage to the building's entrance.
Police on Thursday released footage of the attack taken from the company's security cameras in an appeal for public information on the attackers' identities.
The video shows the van reversing through the glass doors of the building's entrance, only managing to smash through the second set of doors after several tries, before three people wearing motorbike crash helmets come out of the vehicle.
At one point in the footage, another man wearing a T-shirt and holding a bottle that seems to be a gasoline bomb also appears, arriving from outside the building. None appear to be in a rush, and the video cuts before the fire becomes visible.