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Greece's Most-Wanted Terrorist Is Arrested in Athens Suburb

She was a leader of an anarchist group called Revolutionary Struggle. She helped organize, officials say, a car bombing near the country's central bank. Later, the authorities say, she rented a helicopter using a fake name and then tried to hijack it in an effort to rescue her imprisoned partner.

On Thursday morning, the anarchist leader, Panagiota Roupa, was asleep in a house in Ilioupoli, a middle-class suburb southeast of Athens, where she was living under an assumed identity, when the antiterrorism police burst in. She surrendered without a fight. Her 6-year-old was taken into protective custody.

"Be careful with my son," she told the officers, according to Theodoros Chronopoulos, the chief spokesman for the national police.

Greek officials called Ms. Roupa, 47 – known by her nickname, Pola – the country's "No. 1 most-wanted" terrorist. With her partner, Nikos Maziotis, she was a leader of Revolutionary Struggle, which carried out a string of bombings and shootings targeting the police and others starting in 2003, and fired an antitank grenade at the United States Embassy in Athens in 2007. The attacks caused several injuries, but no deaths.

"She is the No. 1 most wanted domestic terrorist, as she has been crucial in managing the Revolutionary Struggle, but more specifically in recruiting," Mr. Chronopoulos said in a phone interview.

Starting in 2010, Ms. Roupa and Mr. Maziotis served 18 months in pretrial detention, the maximum possible, on terrorism charges. They were released in 2012 and were required to check in with the local police once a week, but instead they went on the run. In 2013, they were sentenced in absentia to 50 years in prison. Another leader of the group, Costas Gournas, also received a 50-year sentence.

The group, which had been thought to be inactive, claimed responsibility for an April 2014 bomb that was placed in a parked car in central Athens. No one was injured in the attack. That July, Mr. Maziotis was arrested after a shootout with the police in central Athens in which he and three other people – a police officer, a German tourist and an Australian tourist – were injured.

Early last year, the police said, Ms. Roupa tried to free Mr. Maziotis and other prisoners. She rented a helicopter and tried to force the pilot at gunpoint to fly over the prison where they were being held. But the pilot refused, and in the struggle that followed, he managed to regain control and land the helicopter. Ms. Roupa ran off.

"Over the last year, the police had been collecting significant information and indications leading us to the municipalities of southern Athens," Mr. Chronopoulos said on Thursday. The police monitored the house over the past three days, he said, and on Wednesday evening, "when we were made sure that it was indeed Pola Roupa living in that house, we decided that it was time to go in with the raid."

A 25-year-old woman, who the police said was babysitting the son, was arrested in a nearby suburb, and charged with giving refuge to Ms. Roupa.

Ms. Roupa is to stand trial on two sets of charges: one for violating the terms of her release from pretrial detention, the second for her involvement with the 2014 car bombing. The police said they were also looking into the possibility that she had robbed banks.

According to her lawyer, Fragiskos Ragousis, Ms. Roupa has accepted responsibility for both crimes.

"She is planning to assume complete political responsibility for her actions, but she is demanding that her child is given to her mother and sister," Mr. Ragousis said in a phone interview.

Mr. Ragousis – a colorful lawyer with a history of representing leftist guerrillas, including Christodoulos Xiros, a member of the terrorist group known as November 17 – said of Ms. Roupa, "Given her social action, the fact that she is an urban guerrilla fighter, it's my great honor to represent her."

News of Ms. Roupa's arrest dominated the Greek news and social media. On Twitter, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the center-right New Democracy, the main opposition party, congratulated the Greek police for capturing Ms. Roupa and continuing the fight against terrorism.

Thanasis Bakolas, a spokesman for New Democracy, said in a phone interview that the leftist Syriza, the leading party in the government, had not done enough to crack down on militant leftist groups, "to which Syriza was ideologically and politically close prior to becoming the governing party." (Reached by phone, representatives of Syriza did not comment.)

Ms. Roupa's sister, Christianna, read a statement from Ms. Roupa, in which she pledged to be "an unremorseful enemy of the system until I die."

The statement added, "We are at war – this is a fact." It also said that she would go on a hunger strike until her son was turned over to her family, concluding that she would "remain their enemy until I die, and they will never break me."

"Long live the revolution!" it said.

Some of Ms. Roupa's supporters expressed their solidarity on Twitter, suggesting that she was no more of a criminal than Greek politicians.

[Source: By Iliana Magra, The New York Times, 06Jan17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 09Jan17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.