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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alleged Terrorists Stand Trial in Athens

ATHENS, Greece -- Sitting behind bulletproof glass, 19 suspected members of Greece's most deadly terrorist group went on trial Monday for an era of violence that spanned from 1970s Marxist revolution to current struggles against global commerce.

The landmark trial against the once-impenetrable November 17 cell were seen as another major step by Greek authorities to redeem their reputations after being outwitted for 28 years.

The group named itself November 17 after the date of a student-led uprising in 1973 which helped topple the military dictatorship.

The group, which eluded police since its first attack in 1975, is blamed for more than 100 bombings, a string of armed robberies and 23 murders, including American, Turkish and British envoys.

The judge asked each defendant to stand and acknowledge their name. The list is a curious cross-section of Greek society -- from laborers to a beekeeper to a French-born academic who is accused of being the group's mastermind.

Some of the defendants were expected to try to challenge the legitimacy of the court. The witness list includes 333 people for the prosecution -- including 44 foreigners -- and 70 for the defense.

Some relatives of November 17 victims were on hand, including Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and British widow Heather Saunders. Bakoyianni's husband Pavlos, a spokesman for the conservative New Democracy party, was killed in 1989. Saunders' husband, British defense attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders, was gunned down in June 2000 in the group's latest killing.

The attacks hurt efforts to bolster democracy after a seven-year dictatorship collapsed in 1974. Repeated failures to crack the group also brought strong international pressure on Greece -- particularly with terrorism fears elevated for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

November 17 finally began to unravel following a botched bombing in June 2002 that led to a series of arrests.

November 17's victims include diplomats from Britain and Turkey and four American officials, as well as senior judges, industrialists and politicians from Greece. Its first victim was the CIA station chief in Athens in 1975.

Its manifestos -- published in the Greek media -- railed against a host of perceived injustices: alleged meddling in Greek affairs by the United States, erosion of Greek independence as a NATO and EU member, global links of finance and commerce. Over the years, it merged strong Marxist ideology with a shrill brand of patriotism.

Lawyers representing several defendants are expected to challenge the court's competence.