I could very well imagine that, because I had never felt unsafe with 17N around, and I said so. I said that I never felt that I would be harmed in any way. “Even after the Axarlian case?” Evi challenged.
Thanos Axarlian was a twenty-year-old man, the only untargeted victim of 17N, who was killed by rocket shrapnel when 17N tried, unsuccessfully, to assassinate the minister of finance in a busy downtown street in 1992. The truth is that even after the Axarlian case I did not feel particularly unsafe. I live in New York City, after all, and in 1992 New York City was not exactly peaceful, either. It seems that Evi's position, though, was not very prevalent, especially among Athenians. Some of them even felt an affinity with 17N's pursuit of reckless industrialists, torturers who had escaped justice, and irresponsible newspapermen with deep connections to the political establishment and the capitalist structure of the country.
Things changed, however, when 17N started targeting people whose political significance was not easily apparent or, even more disturbingly, the choice of whom belied a significant turn toward nationalism and isolationism in 17N ideology. One of those people was Bakoyiannis. This particular case created the greatest consternation, as no one could quite understand the importance that 17N placed on the possibility of such a rapprochement.
During the trial in 2004—a trial that, by all accounts, was a parody of justice, reminiscent of the trials of the Left during the 1950s, I was invited to dinner at the house of some old friends of my parents. Other people were there, too, some of whom I had not seen in many years, some of whom I did not know, and some long-time neighbors who had known the family for generations. The discussion inevitably turned to the trial, as we were watching interviews with Xeros's parents. One of those old friends, Anastasia, talked back to the television, addressing the father of Xeros, an old priest. “Yeah, and what happened to all the money that you made, and the villas that you built, you goat-priest [tragópapa],” she said.
During the trial of 17N, when asked what could possibly count as political motives for the actions of the organization, one of the witnesses for the defense, Giorgos Karabeliás, a book publisher in his late sixties, turned to the public prosecutor and asked: “Do you see how thick my glasses are and that I am almost blind? Do you know why I have almost lost my eyesight?”
“Because you are poor and you can't afford a good ophthalmologist,” the prosecutor replied.
“No,” he said, “it's because when I was born the obstetrician made a mistake that almost cost me my eyesight. But no one prosecuted him, and he knew that he wouldn't be prosecuted. So he went on delivering more children, without any fear or concern that someone might actually demand justice.”
In this short exchange, what is being debated is not the eyesight of the publisher but rather conditions of social injustice and corruption that existed in Greece more than sixty years ago and that, in the eyes of the witness (so to speak), made resistance to the state not only legitimate but morally imperative.
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