Alexandros Panagoulis (02/07/1939 - 01/05/1976)

Alexandros Panagoulis Alexandros Panagoulis was a Greek politician and poet, who actively participated against the Greek military junta, also known as the Regime of the Colonels (1967 – 1974).

He was born in Glyfada, Athens, in 1939. Second son of a Greek army officer, he spent his childhood and adolescence between Lefkada and Athens. He studied at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens and he joined the youth organisation of the political party Enosis Kentrou (EK., Centre Union), later named Hellenic Democratic Youth (EDIN), which was led by Georgios Papandreou.

When it was time for his draft in the Greek army, he believed that an overthrow attempt of the junta was imminent. Indeed, he decided to desert from the military, hiding at friendly houses until he found the opportunity to reach Cyprus. He founded the organisation National Resistance and took the nickname Invincible. After forming a plan of action, he returned to Greece in order to assassinate the dictator Georgios Papadopoulos. On 13 August 1968, along with other members of the organisation, he plans the attack but fails, leading to arrests.

The trial for the 15 arrestees started on 3 November 1968, charged with being members of the National Resistance. The defendants did not show any remorse; instead, Panagoulis supported his actions passionately and stated that he preferred to be executed by the firing squad than bend the knee. On 17 November 1968, the verdict of the Military Court is announced: execution by the squad. He was transported to Aegina, where the punishment should be executed within three days. However, there was international outcry of unprecedented magnitude. In Italy, all mass transportation networks interrupted their normal routine and passengers observed five-minute silence. Similar demonstrations occurred in various European cities. Moreover, many governments delivered diplomatic demarches to the main supporters of the dictatorship, NATO and USA.

The junta did not execute him after the international protests, but incarcerated him; during his time in prison, Panagoulis was subject to torture, both physical and psychological. He tried to escape numerous times, and each time he was arrested, there was worse torturing for him. In August 1973, Papadopoulos unsuccessfully tried to liberalise his regime, granting general amnesty to all political prisoners. Panagoulis preferred self-exile to Italy, where he continued his plans against the regime.

After democracy was restored in Greece, Panagoulis became a Member of Parliament, participating in the Center Union party. Later, although he was offered collaboration with PASOK, Panagoulis rejected it, not having a positive opinion of its leader, Andreas Papandreou. During his political career, he made a series of accusations against numerous politicians who he said had collaborated with the overthrown regime. The pressure and threats he received in order to stop his allegations were immense, however he stood by them. His death is speculated to be tied to this fact. On 1 May 1976, he died instantaneously in a car accident in Athens, when a speeding car forced his own to crash. In two days, he was going to publicise files from the junta police, allegedly including evidence that supported his accusations. The files were never found and there was considerable speculation that the accident was staged.

During his incarceration, he wrote a number of poems on the cell walls and on small papers, often using his own blood. Many of his poems did not survive. However, his first collection of poems was published later in Italy, receiving the Viareggio International Prize of Poetry.

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