The escape of the Greek terrorist Christodoulos Xeros on Jan. has provoked an immediate response from the United States with officials expressing frustration that another dangerous criminal walked away from a furlough – the second in six months – and fears it could lead to more terrorism.
Xeros was a member of the notorious November 17 and was linked to six killings. The group murdered five American officials assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Athens before it was broken up ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
A State Department official said: “”We are deeply concerned that the convicted for terrorist acts Christodoulos Xeros who was a key member of the terrorist organization November 17, that killed five employees of the U.S. Mission to Greece, has violated his furlough and is now disappeared.
“We collaborate with Greek officials on this case. We call the Greek government to find Xeros and send him back into prison. The United States and Greece are partners in the fight against terrorism in all its forms, we cooperate with the Greek authorities to deal with those who use violence in order to achieve their goals.”
November 17 is still listed as a terrorist group although its leaders were jailed. Xeros was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences for the murders of the American officials and other acts of the organization.
While Greece scrambled to put together a manhunt two days after Xeros, 55, failed to check in at a police station in northern Greece as a condition of his release on a nine-day holiday leave, the government also moved to try to curtail furloughs for dangerous criminals and terrorists.
According to Mega television channel, speaking to the network’s US-based Michalis Ignatiou, a State Department spokesperson noted there was grave concern about the release of man whose group murdered five US Embassy staffers in Greece over the years before it was disbanded.
There was no explanation why a convicted terrorist was allowed to leave jail in the first place on the promise to return, especially after another, Nikos Maziotis, now linked to a gunfire attack on the German Ambassador’s home, walked away on a furlough in the summer of 2012.
President Karolos Papoulias and Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias called for stricter procedures with Dendias warning that because of lax furloughs that dangerous criminals and terrorists are roaming Greece.
“The Greek Police have led dozens of terrorists to justice in the past few years,” Dendias said. “Unfortunately, I must say, a number of them are free right now. And today we had this very unfortunate incident with a convicted terrorist who was on leave,” he added, referring to Xeros.
Papoulias, talking about the country’s crushing economic crisis, said that, “The terrorists’ bullets are actually aimed at the unemployed” and calling for measures to combat domestic terrorism.
Dendias told reporters that Xeros’ leave was granted by a council that had deemed he was not a flight risk nor posed a danger to society. “The terms of release or furlough are a matter of the law,” Dendias said.
The escape came only days after the terrorist attack on the home of the German Ambassador Wolfgang Dold, which led police to fear that there may be new assaults in the planning. Dold’s home was riddled with AK-47 bullets on Dec. 30.
The Greek Police (ELAS) squad is examining evidence from the scene of the attack amid speculation that it may be linked to Maziotis.
The two incidents have raised concerns regarding the judicial procedures for people convicted of terrorist acts and prompted calls for stricter terms to their incarceration. There was no explanation why Xeros was let go in the wake of Maziotis walking away from a furlough.