Greek 'bombing group' trial halted

Fifteen people stand charged in connection with spate of attacks by the group Conspiracy of Fire Cells.

    Security was tight at the trial, with more than 300 police officers on hand [Reuters]

    The trial of 13 people suspected of being part of a Greek anarchist group accused of a series of bombings has been adjourned soon after it got under way at a prison in Athens.

    Nine of the accused appeared in the court, held in the Korydallos prison on Monday, but proceedings were adjourned for one week following a string of demands from the defendants.

    Four other defendants remain on the run and will be tried in absentia.

    The proceedings were halted several times before the adjournment as the defendants objected to identity checks on people attending the court, some of whom were their friends or family members.

    They also demanded that their handcuffs be removed during the court process and that the hearing be recorded.

    Maria Mariellou, the presiding judge, who at times appeared overwhelmed in her efforts to maintain order, initially approved the request but later said there were no facilities available at present for audio recording, prompting an angry reaction from the defendants and their supporters.

    Bombing campaign

    The 13 suspects, aged between 19 and 30, are facing charges for their alleged involvement in the Conspiracy of Fire Cells.

    The organisation has claimed a wave of parcel bombs sent to foreign missions in Athens in November and three European leaders abroad.

    Nobody has been killed as a result of the group's activities.

    Police have arrested more than 20 suspected members of armed groups, mainly from the Conspiracy of Fire Cells, in the last two years, but this has not prevented them from carrying out further attacks.

    Weeks before the trial the group bombed an Athens court house, damaging the building and shattering the windows of nearby buildings and wrecked at least eight cars.

    Five suspected members of a group, who police said were planning attacks ahead of the trial, were arrested last week.

    Mistaken identity

    Those suspects also appeared before the prosecutor on Monday and four of them were jailed pending trial, while a fifth, a German woman, was released.

    Helen Skopis, reporting for Al Jazeera from Athens, said that the woman had been falsely identified when she was arrested.

    "She was mistakenly taken for the daughter of a Red Army Faction member," she reported, referring to the armed leftist group that used to be active in Germany in the 1970s and 80s.

    "She used to live in Thessaloniki until last summer when she moved to Athens. She had been in the company of some of the defendants."

    Greece has a decades-old history of leftist attacks, but some groups became more active after riots in 2008 that were sparked by the police killing of a teenager.

    This is the first time since the ruling socialists came to power in October 2009, vowing to crack down on the groups, that suspected members have faced trial.

    The trial is expected to last months and, if found guilty, the defendants face up to 25 years in jail.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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