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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 09:53 GMT
Terror group murdered UK diplomat
Brigadier Saunders
Brigadier Saunders was killed in 2000 in Athens
Greek terror leaders have been found guilty of murdering a British diplomat.

November 17 group leader Alexandros Giotopoulos, 59, was found guilty of planning the shooting of Brigadier Stephen Saunders in Athens June 2000.

Dimitris Koufodinas, 45, Savas Xiros, 41, and his brother Vassilis, 31, were convicted of the diplomat's murder.

Mr Saunders' widow Heather said the guilty verdicts were "what we hoped for", but added: "Those people that have been killed will never come back."

Mr Koufodinas' wife, Angeliki Sotiropoulou, 40, who was charged as an accomplice to Brigadier Saunders' murder, was acquitted.

The five were on trial with 14 other alleged members for a string of bombings, robberies and many other murders carried out since 1975.

The trial has lasted nine months and attracted huge media attention in the country.

Brigadier Saunders, from Dorset, left behind two daughters - Nicola, 16, and Catherine, 15.

They killed 23 people - but it is 23 widows, there's goodness knows how many children, how many parents - they will all carry this scar for the rest of their lives
Brigadier Stephen Saunders' widow, Heather

Mrs Saunders told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the guilty verdicts were just.

"Nobody really wins in this situation - but if they are taken off the streets for a while and given a piece of their own medicine, albeit in no comparison to what we have suffered, then that is perhaps justice."

But Mrs Saunders added: "We will never get proper justice.

"They killed 23 people - but it is 23 widows, there's goodness knows how many children, how many parents. They will all carry this scar for the rest of their lives."

Mrs Saunders was awarded an OBE for her relentless campaign to find her husband's killers

And she even filed a civil action allowing her to take part in the trial of the 19 suspected group members.

Mrs Saunders told Today: "I was just so angry that somebody had killed my husband, a completely innocent man.

"I just felt that someone had to speak out."

Bomb breakthrough

November 17, a radical Marxist group, has claimed responsibility for murdering 23 Greeks as well as British US and Turkish diplomats since 1975.

Radical left group
Took its name from a bloody student uprising in 1973 during Greece's 1967 to 1974 military rule
Its attacks were aimed at overthrowing capitalism
Police made little progress in their search for the group until last year, when a bomb being carried by Mr Xiros exploded prematurely leaving him badly injured and in the hands of the authorities.

Within months 19 suspected members of the group had been held and charged and Greek police had found the .45 calibre pistol allegedly used to kill Brigadier Saunders.

The 52-year-old defence attache was shot four times in the chest by two men on a motorcycle who drove up alongside his unmarked car in a traffic jam.

November 17 said he had been punished for his "instrumental role" in Nato's 78-day aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict.

The Greek Government offered a reward for information about the killers and British intelligence and Scotland Yard were brought in to help Greek police track them down.

The BBC's Richard Galpin
"Today's decision has been a crucial step forward for Greece"

Widow pleads for long sentences
06 May 03  |  Europe
Terror trial hears 2,000 charges
04 Mar 03  |  Europe
How November 17 was cracked
19 Jul 02  |  Europe

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