ATHENS (AFP) – A notorious Greek fu-gitive who absconded while serving a life sentence for acting as a hitman for an extreme left group was caught Saturday as he rode a bicycle while armed with a loaded pistol, police said.
Christodoulos Xiros was taken into custody in the southern suburb of Anavyssos just shy of a year following his January 7, 2014 disappearance while on prison leave.
He had been serving multiple life sentences for deadly attacks he participated in as a hitman for the November 17 group and had been on a nine-day New Year’s break when he disappeared.
Police caught him as he rode a bike in the neighbourhood where the 56-year-old radical had been renting an apart-ment in recent months.
“He changed his physical appearance, wearing long hair, a goatee, glasses,” said the head of Greece’s police Dimitrios Tsaknakis. “He had a pistol on him loaded with 14 bullets.”
Xiros, who didn’t resist arrest, was immediately handed to anti-terrorism authorities.
Before its breakup in 2002, November 17 was one of Greece’s most violent far-left organisations, claiming responsibility for 23 assassinations during its 27-year span, including the 1975 killing of the CIA’s Athens station chief, Richard Welch.
Despite November 17’s dissolution, Xiros allegedly remained a committed militant and maintained close contacts with fellow jailed radicals.
Shortly after his escape last year, he appeared in an online video berating Greece’s government over the austerity policies it enacted at the behest of international creditors and threatened to “fire the guerrilla shotgun against those who stole our life and sold our dreams”.
Several months later, authorities found DNA on a parcel bomb sent to a police station in the city of Itea that matched traces lifted from the car Xiros used to go into hiding.