It was early Saturday when the thread of life of one of the most important forms of the anti-dictatorship struggle was cut ingloriously & # 8211; He was one of the few who did not succumb to torture and did not betray his “beliefs” and ideals. pantheon of the History of modern Greece. That morning the thread of his life was cut awkwardly as he was moving at high speed on Vouliagmeni Avenue, while next to him he had one or two cars that seemed to fight against him.
Panagoulis lost control of the Fiat Mirrafiori given to him by his partner Oriana Fallaci and was nailed to an underground store on the boulevard, perpendicular to his path. Seconds later he would leave his last breath on the asphalt. He was only 36 years old.
Versions of his death
There were several theories at the time about the accident that cost him his life. Some even talked about murder. Specifically, they stated that the car accident was set up to put the Alexandros Panagoulis out of battle and to destroy the evidence he had in his possession. However, to date no evidence has been presented for all these speculations.
On May 3, a 31-year-old man, Michalis Stefas, appeared before the city police and stated that he was the one who inadvertently caused the accident. In fact, as he said, he braked sharply, with the result that Panagoulis could not react. So he confirmed the version of the accident. It is noted that the pro-government newspapers of the time presented Stefas as a member of “Riga Fereou”.
However, the prosecutor Tsevas, who took over the case, initially spoke of murder: “The case is being investigated in all directions and leaves great room for the possibility of criminal action. It's a weird car accident. “So strange that he can not logically claim that it is an accident,” said Chevas, as reported by the “Time Machine”.
A year later, Stefas sat in the dock. The court decision spoke of a car accident. Stefas was sentenced to 11 months in prison. His fine was redeemed at 150 drachmas a day and a fine of 3,000 drachmas. Panagoulis's family spoke of a decision & # 8211; surrendered and left.
On May 5, the last act of the turbulent life of a hero like Panagoulis was played in the Diocese of Athens. Thousands of people gathered there to say goodbye to a man who gave everything for Democracy. The gathered crowd at the time when the glass coffin passed the threshold of the Diocese shouted “Live”, while neither the then President of the Republic Konstantinos Tsatsos nor the then Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis attended the funeral. In fact, the Armed Forces did not send a representative either.
A few days before his sudden death he had submitted his resignation as a member of parliament for the Center Union. At that time he was preparing to make revelations about the relations that politicians had with the junta regime. However, these revelations were never made.
When he tried to assassinate a “tyrant”
On the morning of August 13, 1968, a small phalanx was heading for Athens from Lagonisi. It was the dictator George Papadopoulos with his entourage, who started as usual, from his villa at the 38th kilometer of the coastal road of Sounio. Two motorcycles were in front, the dictator's car was following and at a distance of 10 meters the security car. The phalanx was moving normally and between the 31st and 32nd kilometers, it passed over an underground rainwater drainage tunnel, 7 meters long. As soon as the safety car passed, a loud deafening explosion took place in the tunnel and opened two large holes in the deck of the road.
It was obvious that the explosion was intended to hit the dictator, but it was delayed for a second or two. Immediately the phalanx stopped, the security men ran on the spot, while the competent command of the Gendarmerie was notified by radio and in a few minutes a strong force arrived that isolated the area. After a systematic search, Panagoulis was discovered, dressed in a swimsuit and hiding under a rock. He remained silent, without declaring his identity. He only said that he had no accomplices. Only two days later was his identity verified.
Panagoulis was taken to the ESA torture cave. One of the most notorious torturers, Major Theodoros Theofilogiannakos, undertook his interrogation, while the same night he arrived urgently from Drama, where the commander of the ESA and later organizer of the betrayal of Cyprus, Lieutenant Colonel Dimitrios, arrived. em>
“After this first time, I saw him again on August 28, that is, 15 days later. He was in the 401st military hospital, where I was taken injured, in a coma, because I refused to take food. Then I recovered from the coma, I was chained to the bed. Ioannidis weighed himself, together with the leader of my torturers, Theofilogiannakos, and immediately Theofilogiannakos threw himself on me shouting: & # 8220; Speak. speak or I will make you speak. Do not believe that you will be saved, because you are in the hospital & # 8221; Not having the strength to answer him, I spat in his face. Theofilogiannakos responded with a terrible punch. The blood started to flow from my mouth and nose, but Ioannidis raised his hand, sometimes indignant or as if he wanted to stop him and said: & # 8220; It seems you have not yet learned that one in a hundred thousand does not speak either. is his case & # 8221 ;. Then he turned to me, and always calm and calm, he added: & # 8220; I will shoot you & # 8221; & # 8230; », he stated, among other things, in an interview with Kathimerini after the fall of the junta. >
Authorities managed to arrest many of Panagoulis's competitors and in general the preliminary investigation revealed the entire mechanism and network of the attempt. The pre-investigation report of Theofilogiannakos was published on October 2, 1968 and published in the newspapers on October 20. The conclusion spoke about the details of the attempt organized by Panagoulis together with Zambelis and Lekanidis, but also about the role of Polykarpos Georkatzis , a dark figure, Minister of Interior and Defense of Cyprus, for whom the finding stated, inter alia:
“& # 8221; The active involvement of this in the exclusive supply of the organization, for all kinds of military equipment, which it sends & # 8217; official road in Greece and its financial support in general, is scandalous and causes surprise, because it rarely, if ever, appears in persons holding official positions. He has the nickname & # 8220; Akritas & # 8221 ;, he is the military leader of the organization & # 8220; Greek Resistance & # 8221; & # 8230; It also completely covers the wanted A. Panagoulin, during his first trip to Cyprus, when they remained there for about six months, and finally supplies him with a genuine regular passport & # 8230 ;. ».
P. Georkatzis submitted his resignation, but Makarios himself covered him with statements, not accepting his resignation. The Athens junta, however, sent an ultimatum to the Cypriot president, threatening to cut off Greek-Cypriot diplomatic relations. Thus, on October 27, Georkatzis left for London and on November 1, he sent a new letter of resignation from there, which Makarios accepted this time.
On November 4, the trial of Al. Panagouli and the other arrested members of his organization. Even in the seat of the accused, Al. Panagoulis was constantly in the middle of two security guards. The decision of the Extraordinary Military Court was issued on November 17.
Sentenced twice to death
Al. Panagoulis was sentenced to death twice. Lefteris Veryvakis, much later PASOK minister of government, was sentenced to life in prison. The following were convicted in the same case: Ioannis Klonizakis (24 years), Nikolaos Lekanidis (23 years), Georgios Eleftheriadis (18 years), Nikolaos Zampelis (18 years), Georgios Avramis (16 years), Stathis Giotas (10 years). No. Klonizakis, I. Valaselis and A. Printezis were sentenced to 1-4 years suspended sentences, while M. Papoulias, A. Sigalas and D. Timogiannakis were acquitted.
“This is a real political assassination intended to disguise the impossibility of a regime, which is fully questioned by the revolutionary reactions of the Greek people,” said Denny Langlois, a spokesman for the French military. of Human Rights, who attended the trial as an observer. Execution had to take place within three 24 hours at the latest, unless pardoned.
Panagoulis categorically refused to submit a pardon request. There was a worldwide outcry and serious international pressure was exerted to prevent the execution. The junta succumbed and so tacitly the sentence remained unenforced. Panagoulis was transferred to the prisons of Aegina and then to the prisons of Bogiati, without being considered a future death.
As Oriana Fallaci noted in her interview with Alexandros Panagoulis after his release, his act was a political act against the dictatorship. Falatsi described A. Panagoulis as follows: “I did not try to kill anyone. I am not capable of killing a human being. I tried to kill a tyrant. “
Escapes and poetry
Panagoulis escaped from prison on June 5, 1969, but was re-arrested and temporarily taken to the Goudi camp to be transferred again a month later to Bogiati prison. There, isolation was waiting for him in a cell that was made especially for Panagoulis and was like a copy of a tomb. He tried to escape several times unsuccessfully. As a way out he wrote poems. He continued to write even when all the stationery was confiscated, using his blood for ink and the walls of his cell-grave for paper.
From amnesty to self-exile
In August 1973 – after almost four and a half years in prison – he was released on the basis of the general amnesty granted by the colonel regime to political prisoners, following the failed attempt of G. Papadopoulos to liberalize his regime. He re-exiled himself, this time to Florence, Italy, to reactivate the resistance, but essentially continued the resistance in Greece by secretly coming and organizing resistance groups.
Alexandros Panagoulis was tortured daily, with the most imaginative, cruel and disgusting torture throughout his detention. His self-control, his self-discipline, his stubbornness in defending what he believed in and the humor he possessed served as shields thanks to which he managed to survive the physical and mental rape.
> According to many, in Bogiati's prisons he wrote his best poems on the wall of his cell or on tiny scrapbooks, often in ink with his own blood. Many of his poems have not survived. However, he either managed to get many of them out of prison in various ways or to rewrite them later thanks to his strong memoir.
The horrific descriptions of the torture he suffered in the ESA detention centers
In 1975, the junta's torturers were tried with Aleko Panagoulis as one of the main prosecution witnesses . Even today, 47 years after his testimony, his words sound shocking.
“Mr. President, they were arrested on the morning of August 13, on the coastal road, at the place where the attempt against Papadopoulos took place. “From that moment until the moment I was released from prison, I was given the opportunity to meet the accused Theofilogiannakos many times”, Panagoulis began his shocking story.
“From the first moment and the presence of Ladas, Tzevelekos, Karabatsos and other senior officers, he started burning my cigarette with his hands tied behind his back, pulling my hair and hitting me on the head, and then we moved on. to reach EAT-ESA “, he continued.
“The interrogation began escalating from the area of punches, burns, phalanx and flogging to the area of sexual torture. Theofilogiannakos himself personally hit me with a cable, repeatedly throughout my body. There are still scars in my shoulder area because the end of the cable was tied with wire and created a bigger wound. “On one side and on the other,” he concluded in his testimony.
The poet Panagoulis
In 1972, while he was still in prison, his first collection of poetry in Italian was published in Palermo. Ferruccio Paris and the Italian director and artist Pier Paolo Pasolini. For this work A. Panagoulis was awarded the International Prize for Literature Viareggio (Premio Viareggio Internazionnale) the following year.
After his release A. Panagoulis published in Milan his second poetry collection in Italian Vi scrivo da un carcere in Grecia (I am writing to you through a prison in Greece) with an introductory note by Pierre Paolo Pasolini. It was preceded by the publication in Greek of notebooks such as the collection entitled “The Color”.
On the initiative of the then president of the Hellenic Democratic Youth (EDIN) and today president of the Union of the Democratic Center (EDIK) the poems of Alekos Panagoulis were republished by Papazisis Publications. The cover of the publication is adorned with the work of a young student winner of a graphic design competition with the theme of Aleko's face.
In the meantime, his life and work fueled artistic circles. Specifically, the famous composer Mikis Theodorakis composed his poems. Furthermore, the poetry and life of A. Panagoulis became the subject of study for many researchers. This group also includes the work Un Uomo (A Man) written by the Italian journalist and partner of Oriana Fallaci.
According to many, Alexandros Panagoulis, the almost “tyrant”, with his courage act (the assassination attempt on the dictator) has been established as a symbol of freedom, democracy, human rights and individual and political freedoms and thanks to its political ethos inspires new generations in Greece and internationally.
Instead of an epilogue. They say that the dead die only when they are forgotten… But HEROES like Aleko Panagoulis are never forgotten & # 8230;