The Murder of Alekos Panagoulis
There are references that one day before the murder of Alekos Panagoulis where he revealed that Andreas Papandreou was a US agent. His murder occurred a few days prior to him bring the file of the murders by the police unit of the Colonels Junta.
It was daylight on 1st May in 1976 and the car of the MP Alexandros Pangoulis is running with high speed towards Leoforos Vouliagmeni on its way to Glifada whilst next to it there were one or two cars appearing to be racing against it. A few seconds later there is a big bang and smoke comes from the right hand side of the road. The first few people who happened to be in the area rush to the crash and the find Alekos Panagoulis half dead behind a seat in the car and he just makes some sighs before passing away.
From the next day the phrase ‘political murder’ is on everyone’s phrase in the first phase. On the other the only resistance fighter who didn’t leave friends and enemies indifferent as well as the highly politicised era and the de-juntafication.
The publication of the archives of ESA (police torturers) which he had himself uncovered and their swift banning create a new climate between Panagoulis and the then Minister of Defence Evangelos Averof. Panagoulis had asked for a meeting with Karamanlis to inform him for the issue of the archives understanding that these papers in his hands would create him many issues.
The prosecutor of the case Dimitris Tzevas spoke initially about the criminal enterprise: ‘This case is analysed towards every direction and I left amounts on the possibility of a criminal organisation. It’s a strange car accident. So strange that someone cannot logically accept it was an accident”. Everyone is looking for the unknown Alpha Romeos, Jaguars, Fords which they brought out of their course whilst some speak about a bullet with sleeping drugs within it which immobilised. Mihalis Stefas creates more confusion on the issue on 3rd May when he confirms that the sudden break due to the high speed implied he couldn’t avoid it. The appearance of Stefas who is presented by the pro-government newspapers as a member of ‘Rigas Ferreos’ but his difficulty in explaining what he meant when the police asked for a reproduction and he
Convinced only those who were willing to be convinced and he pushes further those who do not want to accept the theory of the accident. There are many questions: Why did Panagoulis whilst being found in Palio Faliro and could go to his house in Glifada wanted to do a massive roundabout from Leoforo Singrou towards Vouliagmeni? The cars which followed him towards his course of death were at least two or three and a verbal spat also ensued. The funeral occurs on 5th May and is being transformed into a massive democratic wave against Averof and there is one chant which is heard in the wall of the city for many years Panagoulis LIVES. In this massive bipartisan rally – funeral the President of the Democracy Konstantinos Tsatsos, the PM Karamanlis does not come whilst the armed forces do not send an official to represent them. Everyone else is there though. All the political parties but primarily tens of thousands of people who may attempt to paraphrase a statement of Panagoulis: ‘I didn’t understand you people. Tell me again! Are you asking me for thanks or to forgive you?’ Massive amongst the crowds his mother who demands that her child not have his hands crossed as those hands were tied by handcuffs for so long.
Sometime later a paramilitary character with the name of George Leonardos had spoken allegedly about a so called organisation called ‘Arachni’ which murdered Panagoulis but in the trial which occurred he was condemned for slander. There was a judicial condemnation for the death of Panagoulis but this wasn’t for the murder but for the car crash. Stefos was condemned for the imprisonment to 11 months and a penalty towards 150 drachmas for the day. Panagoulis family wasn’t there to listen to the judgement and spoke about a parody of justice.
The role of the MM
For the newsmedia of the era the death of Panagoulis was the most important news after the return of democracy. The first days when there were no newspapers due to the May day break so the only absolute form of information was the state media and as was natural spoke about an accident not a murder.
So as to give weight to the government view the television referred to ‘blood test which occurred immediately after the crash which found 57grams of alcohol in the blood of the victim’ For most people who don’t know that this is an acceptable level but this implied that most thought he crashed due to drinking.
The climate changed immediately on 3rd May when newspapers were circulated that represented all views : murder or accident.
‘Ta Nea’ ‘They killed him so he makes no more revelations. He was killed by a bullet with poison’
‘Vradidini’ ‘All the information regarding the death of Panagoulis. All indications show that this was a car crash’
‘Rizospastis’ KKE didn’t have his death as the main item…
Various newspapers abroad also commented but most were clear it was murder.
‘Daily Express’ Murder, killing the mouth of the Greek witness of torturers’
‘Times’ ‘The Greeks know enough about heroes and myths to not believe in accidents’
Even 15 days after his death the noise hadn’t receded the discussions about conspiracies and cover ups continued to the point that the then deputy Minister of the Presidency Panagiotis Lambrios sent a note to the owners of the Media where he asked ‘they end the re-interpration of the death of Alekos Panagoulis’ whilst he made noise about a technical provocation which could provoke dangers for democracy itself
Who would accept that the fighter of democracy would be responsible for his own death and that democracy would be endangered. This letter provoked an even bigger wave of reaction from the parties of the opposition towards the government which spoke about imposing controls on the Press and a restriction of its freedom.
Characteristic the climate of the era was a letter sent to Karamanlis by the journalist B. Vasiliou ‘I am concerned that apart from an insurance man of cars I haven’t met any other person who ignores the version of murder of Panagoulis. It would be good to have some element of doubt these hours as there is only one journalist who support the government that was elected on 45.5% of the vote.
Alexandros Panagoulis (Greek: Αλέξανδρος Παναγούλης) (2 July 1939 – 1 May 1976) was a Greek politician and poet. He took an active role in the fight against the Regime of the Colonels (1967–1974) in Greece. He became famous for his attempt to assassinate dictator Georgios Papadopoulos on 13 August 1968, but also for the torture that he was subjected to during his detention. After the restoration of democracy he was elected to the Greek parliament as a member of the Center Union (E. K.).
Alexandros Panagoulis was born in the Glyfada neighbourhood of Athens. He was the second son of Vassilios Panagoulis, an officer in the Greek Army, and his wife Athena, and the brother of Georgios Panagoulis, also a Greek Army officer and victim of the Colonels' regime, and Efstathios, who became a politician. His father was from Divri (Lampeia) in Elis (Western Peloponnese) while his mother was from the Ionian island of Lefkada. Panagoulis spent part of his childhood during the Axis Occupation of Greece in the Second World War on this island.
He studied at the National Technical University of Athens in the School of Electrical Engineering.
From his teenage years, Alexandros Panagoulis was inspired by democratic values. He joined the youth organisation of the Center Union party (E.K.), known as O.N.E.K., under the leadership of Georgios Papandreou. The organisation later became known as Hellenic Democratic Youth(E.DI.N.). After the fall of the Colonels' regime and the restoration of parliamentary rule, Panagoulis became the Secretary-General of E.DI.N., on 3 September 1974.
Resistance to the dictatorship
Alexandros Panagoulis participated actively in the fight against the Regime of the Colonels. He deserted from the Greek military because of his democratic convictions and founded the organization National Resistance. He went into self-exile in Cyprus in order to develop a plan of action. He returned to Greece where, with the help of his collaborators, he organized the 13 August 1968 assassination attempt against Papadopoulos, close to Varkiza. The attempt failed and Panagoulis was arrested.
In an interview held after his liberation, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci quoted Panagoulis as saying: I didn’t want to kill a man. I’m not capable of killing a man. I wanted to kill a tyrant.
Panagoulis was put on trial by the Military Court on 3 November 1968, condemned to death with other members of National Resistance on 17 November 1968, and subsequently transported to the island of Aegina for the sentence to be carried out. As a result of political pressure from the international community, the junta refrained from executing him and instead incarcerated him at the Bogiati Military Prisons on 25 November 1968.
Alexandros Panagoulis refused to cooperate with the junta, and was subjected to physical and psychological torture. He escaped from prison on 5 June 1969. He was soon re-arrested and sent temporarily to the camp of Goudi. He was eventually placed in solitary confinement at Bogiati, from which he unsuccessfully attempted to escape on several occasions.
He reportedly refused amnesty offers from the junta. In August 1973, after four and a half years in jail, he benefited from a general amnesty that the military regime granted to all political prisoners during a failed attempt by Papadopoulos to liberalize his regime. Panagoulis went into self-exile in Florence, Italy, in order to continue the resistance. There he was hosted by Oriana Fallaci, his companion who was to become his biographer.
Restoration of democracy
After the restoration of democracy during the Metapolitefsi, Alexandros Panagoulis was elected as Member of Parliament for the Center Union - New Forces party in the November 1974 elections. He made also a series of allegations against mainstream politicians who he said had openly or secretly collaborated with the junta. He eventually resigned from his party, after disputes with the leadership, but remained in the parliament as an independent deputy. He stood by his allegations, which he made openly against the then Minister of National Defence, Evangelos Averoff, and others. He reportedly received political pressure and threats against his life in order to persuade him to tone down his allegations.
Grave of Alexandros (Alekos) Panagoulis; First Cemetery of Athens.
Panagoulis was killed on 1 May 1976 at the age of 36 in a car accident on Vouliagmenis Avenue in Athens. More precisely, a frantically speeding car with a Corinthian named Stefas behind the wheel diverted Panagoulis' car and forced it to crash. The crash killed Panagoulis almost instantaneously. This happened only two days before files of the junta's military police (the "E.A.T.-E.S.A. file") that he was in possession of were to be made public. The files, which never materialized, reportedly included evidence of his allegations of collaboration of Greek officers with Nazi Germany in World War Two as many of the men who served in the Security Battalions who fought for the Germans in 1943-44 were the leaders of the Colonels' Regime of 1967-74. There was much speculation in the Greek press that the car accident was staged to silence Panagoulis and to cover up the documents in question.
Cimitero degli Allori, Oriana Fallaci and memorial to Panagoulis
A memorial to Panagoulis is near Oriana Fallaci's tomb at Cimitero degli Allori, Florence.
Alexandros Panagoulis was brutally tortured during his incarceration by the junta. Many believe that he maintained his faculties thanks to his will, determination to defend his beliefs, as well as his keen sense of humour. While imprisoned at Bogiati, Panagoulis is said to have written his poetry on the walls of his cell or on small papers, often using his own blood as ink (as told in the poem 'The Paint'). Many of his poems have not survived. However, he managed to smuggle some to friends while in prison, or to recall and rewrite them later. While in prison his first collection in Italian titled Altri seguiranno: poesie e documenti dal carcere di Boyati(Others will Follow: Poetry and Documents of the Prison of Boyati) was published in Palermo in 1972 with an introduction of the Italian politician Ferruccio Parri and the Italian film director and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini. For this collection Panagoulis was awarded the Viareggio International Prize of Poetry (Premio Viareggio Internazionale) the following year. After his liberation he published his second collection in Milan under the title Vi scrivo da un carcere in Grecia (I write you from a prison in Greece) with an introduction by Pasolini. He had previously published several collections in Greek, including The Paint (I Bogia).