52. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State 1

6619. Subj: Commutation of Death Sentences: Additional Consideration Underlying Prime Minister’s Decision. Ref: Athens 6618.2

During conversation with DCM today, MFA’s DirGen of Political Affairs John Tzounis (PROTECT) suggested a reason for the speed with which Caramanlis commuted sentences of junta leaders which has not been mentioned in polemics between government and opposition (reftel). Tzounis said that in his personal opinion Caramanlis was worried lest Greek elements and civilian supporters of junta make [Page 179] Public appeal to Prime Minister to commute sentences. Had this happened Caramanlis would have been in a difficult position. Any subsequent decision to commute sentences would have been criticized by the opposition as an indication that GOG was bending before military and juntaist pressure. Prime Minister would in fact have been forced to permit executions to take place simply to avoid creating impression that junta leaders were being spared because they enjoyed widespread support in the Greek military and among the public at large. Only by acting with utmost speed could Caramanlis make absolutely clear that he was acting independently on the basis of his and the government’s best judgment and not under pressure.
Under the circumstances and despite the obvious risks, Tzounis believed that Caramanlis had made the right decision and that the political furor touched off by the commutations would die down without inflicting permanent damage on the government.
Comment: Tzounis is close to the Prime Minister and, while we do not know whether he is privy to Caramanlis’ thinking on this subject, we consider his explanation of the factors underlying the commutation to be extremely persuasive.
Kubisch 3
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 84, Athens Embassy Files: Lot 78 F 160, Box 63, POL 23, International Security, 1975. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by Monteagle Stearns and cleared by George Barbis (POL).
  2. Telegram 6618 from Athens, August 29, reported that the commutation of death sentences of three junta leaders, including Papadopoulos, by the Greek Government remained a “hot issue” in Greek political circles. (Ibid.)
  3. The Ambassador initialed above his typed signature.