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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Terror Leaders Convicted in Greece

ATHENS, Greece -- A Greek court on Monday convicted two men as the chief assassin and the mastermind of the November 17 guerrilla group, which murdered prominent Greeks as well as U.S., British and Turkish diplomats in a 27-year reign of fear.

Three judges delivered the verdicts at the end of a marathon trial involving 19 accused members of November 17. There was no jury because terrorism charges were involved.

Four of the 19 defendants were found not guilty including the only woman, the wife of the convicted chief assassin.

The convictions and cracking the group's network removed a major security concern ahead of next summer's Olympic Games in Athens.

The mastermind, Alexandros Giotopoulos, 59, was found guilty of plotting several murders, including the last killing, a drive-by shooting of British military attache Stephen Saunders in 2000.

Saunders' widow, Heather, said, "At the end of the day nobody really wins in this situation, but if they are taken off the streets for a while and given a dose of their own medicine -- albeit no comparison to what we suffered -- then that, perhaps, is justice."

Chief Judge Michalis Margaritis said in the judgment against Giotopoulos, "The court finds Alexandros Giotopoulos guilty of instigating murder."

Giotopoulos is a mathematician who was a student in Paris in the 1960s and is the son of Greece's most prominent Trotskyite.

As he was led from the court after being convicted of nearly 1,000 charges, he smiled, waved to spectators and shouted, "Today's Greece is a modern colony of the United States."

The court found beekeeper Dimitris Koufodinas, the main hit man, guilty of Saunders' murder. It was one of 253 charges against the cold-blooded killer known as "Poison Hand" for his close-up murders with a pistol.

Koufodinas shouted, "We are not interested in this decision. This verdict does not concern us. We are only interested in the judgment of history and of the Greek people."

November 17, a radical Marxist group, was named after the date of a 1973 student uprising, which was crushed with tanks by Greece's then-ruling military.

The group claimed responsibility for murdering 23 Greeks, as well as British, U.S. and Turkish diplomats that began with the 1975 killing of Athens CIA station chief Richard Welch.

A 20-year statute of limitation for murder means there will be no punishment for the first four killings, including Welch. Sentences will be passed later this week.

For years the group staged rocket attacks, bombings, shootings and bank robberies in central Athens and taunted authorities in letters to the media.

They eluded authorities until a botched bombing attempt last year led to the first capture and set off a hunt that led to all the arrests.