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Alekos Panagoulis' last Mayday

On 1 May 1976 a frantically speeding car with a Corinthian named Stefas behind the wheel, dashing on Vouliagmenis avenue in the Agios Stefanos neighborhood, forced another vehicle off the road and onto an embankment, where it crashed. The passenger of the second vehicle was none other than politician, poet, and junta resistor Alexandros Panagoulis. The 36 year old Panagoulis was killed almost instantly.

Alexandros Panagoulis (2 July 1939 – 1 May 1976) was a Greek politician and poet. He took an active role in the fight against the Colonel's junta (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.).

The son and nephew of army officers, Alexandros Panagoulis studied at the Metsovion Polytechnic school of Athens in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

From his teenage years, Panagoulis was inspired by democratic values, joining the youth organisation of the Center Union party, under the leadership of Georgios Papandreou. After the fall of the junta and the restoration of democracy, Panagoulis became the Secretary-General of E.DI.N. the Center Union's youth organization, on 3 September 1974.

During the junta, he deserted from the Greek military because of his democratic convictions and founded the organization National Resistance. After a self imposed 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, but 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, hosted by Oriana Fallaci, his companion who was to become his biographer.

After the restoration of democracy, Alexandros Panagoulis was elected as Member of Parliament for the Center Union – New Forces party in the November 1974 elections. He denied a collaboration with PASOK and Andreas Papandreou whom he saw in a negative light. He also made 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 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.

His death happened only two days before files of the junta's military police that he was in possession of were to be made public. The files, which never materialized, reportedly included evidence of his allegations of collaboration. 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.