09 December, 2003
WASHINGTON 09/12/2003 (ANA/T. Ellis)
The United States hailed the decision announced by an Athens court on Monday concerning the trial of 19 suspects involved in the November 17 terrorist group.
Replying to a question by the Athens News Agency (ANA), the US State Department's spokesman Richard Boucher said ''the US welcomes the decision to convict'' and expressed the hope that the issue will also bring closure to the families of the victims.
Boucher added that Washington will have further comment when Greek justice announces the specific sentences.
Asked whether the US intends to request the extradition of specific persons involved in the case, he said ''I have nothing to say at this stage.''
Boucher also declined any comment on a statement by Greek Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos that there is no question of extradition to the United States.
Replying to another question on whether the US believes that the case has closed altogether, Boucher said ''you mean if they have arrested all who are related to November 17? This is a question for the Greek prosecuting authorities. This specific case appears to be coming to its end. I am not aware whether there is the right of appeal or other aspects of judicial procedure. It is not a question the US can reply to. It is an issue concerning the Greek prosecuting authorities and Greek justice.''
Urged again to comment on whether all have been arrested, the State Department's spokesman reiterated that it is not something the US can say, adding that ''the Greek prosecuting and judicial authorities, which are resolute and which showed their determination in the prosecution of November 17, are those which can reply whether they still have an open case or not.''
The first official US response to Monday’s verdicts in the closely watched “November 17” terrorism trial came hours later from the US envoy to Athens, who noted that Washington will wait until after the sentencing phase to officially comment.
US Ambassador Thomas Miller was quizzed about the judgment after arriving to speak at a previously scheduled American-Hellenic Chamber luncheon in a downtown Athens hotel. The notorious terror gang killed a handful of US embassy personnel -- as well as other foreign diplomats, local businessmen, publishers and politicians -- since it first emerged on the scene 28 years ago with Dec. 23 1975 assassination of the reputed CIA station chief in Athens at the time, Richard Welch.
Miller again praised Greece for apprehending what local authorities believe is the once-elusive organization’s entire membership, while adding that the “(judicial) process is only half-way there”.
Conversely, he emphasized that his comments, hours after a three-justice special court convicted 15 out of 19 defendants, entailed no “signals” whatsoever.
“My government wants to look at the sentences and will offer comment afterwards ... this (trial and verdict) is an extremely important milestone for Greece,” Miller said, before again praising Greek-US cooperation in the anti-terrorism sector. Moreover, he merely noted that close bilateral cooperation in investigations will continue when asked whether he believed any other N17 cadres remained at large.
Asked about the prospect of Washington requesting the extradition of one or more of the convicted defendants, the US envoy said that at the moment “this is a question I am not prepared to address,” before referring to statements on the issue by the Greek justice minister.
Source: Athens News Agency