by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Dimitris Koufodinas, a leading "November 17" (17 N) terrorist group member who is serving 11 life sentences for murder, was granted his first prison furlough in 15 years, Greek national news agency AMNA reported on Thursday.
The exit of Koufodinas from Korydallos maximum security prison on a 48-hour leave has sparked strong reactions by opposition parties in Athens.
Koufodinas has been identified as "17 N"'s main hit man during the trial that followed his arrest and the dismantling of the group in 2002.
He was convicted in 2003, along a dozen other group members, for their roles in more than 100 attacks carried out between 1975 and 2000 that killed 23 Greek, U.S., British and Turkish nationals.
Among the victims were businessmen, politicians, diplomats and citizens who were considered "collateral damage" such as Thanos Axarlian, a 20-year-old student who was killed in 1992 during an attack against then finance minister.
Koufodinas had requested a temporary leave many times in the past, but his request had been rejected.
Government sources told AMNA on Thursday that the decision to grant furlough was reached unanimously by the Appeals Justices' Council.
The Greek Federation of Prison Guards noted in a press statement that Koufodinas could have received the temporary leave sooner should Christodoulos Xiros, another leading "17 N" member had not vanished during a similar furlough in January 2014.
Xiros was arrested again a year later. While he was on the run he had threatened with more attacks and police discovered in his hide out weapons and explosives.
Koufodinas must report twice a day to the police station near his residence.
Koufodinas' release was criticized by parties from the Right to the Left of the political spectrum.
"Granting any furlough to Koufodinas is inconceivable. Not only for his heinous actions against Democracy, but also because he has never expressed any remorse for them and remains the ideological leader of the new generation of terrorists," main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted.
The decision was also slammed by Athens Mayor Yorgos Kaminis, a centre-Left lawyer and former ombudsman, and centrist River Party leader Stavros Theodorakis.
They argued that criminals like Koufodinas who have not shown remorse should not be allowed out of prison.
In books written from prison, Koufodinas defended his actions.