Grisly cult murder trial grips Greece

Nando Times/December 11, 1997

Athens -- Tales of black magic, rape and murder have come back to haunt the Greek public this week, with witnesses testifying in detail at the appeal trial of three convicted young satanists.

"I walked into a room where a naked woman was lying on the floor and was told to kill her with a knife. I couldn't do it. My initiation ceremony was ruined," Vassillis Michos, a youth who had flirted with the cult, told the court.

Three people are appealing 1995 convictions for kidnapping, raping and murdering a 30-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl in occult ceremonies at deserted buildings near Athens.

Newspapers follow the trial closely. TV channels, which have been banned from the proceedings, daily parade experts to evaluate the remorse shown by the satanists and explain how seemingly normal young people from good families could commit such violent crimes.

The youths, appearing in court with heads bowed and silent, are trying to get their sentences reduced by convincing the Athens appeals court they have now turned to God.

Asimakis Katsoulas, 24, and Manos Dimitrokalis, 23, also known by their cult names Amon and Enigma, were found guilty and given life sentences on two counts of rape and murder and one count of kidnapping.

Katsoulas's former girlfriend and "high priestess" Dimitra Marieti, 22, was sentenced to 18 years and four months in prison after being found guilty as an accessory to murder.

The three confessed after their arrest in December 1993 that they led a 20-member satanic cult, which had conducted animal and human sacrifices on the outskirts of Athens for three years.

The case had mesmerized Greece for months and television interviewed dozens of experts - from psychologists to church witch-hunters -- to determine whether the youths believed in satan or merely used the occult to rape, kill and obtain money.

The cult's first victim was Dora Syropoulou, 15, who was killed at her initiation ceremony in August 1992. She was lured to an abandoned winery, stripped, handcuffed, raped and strangled.

Marieti, who said Katsoulas sexually assaulted her during her initiation, was used as bait to trap the girl and waited in a car during the murder.

Katsoulas and Dimitrokalis kidnapped hotel maid Garufalia Giourga, 30, at a bus stop, raped and tortured her in their car before crushing her skull.

Former cult members told the court Katsoulas convinced them he was the vehicle for ancient demons by performing miracles such as producing a snowball in his hand in mid-July.

"He raped one of my daughters and assulted the other saying the demon demanded it," Evangelia Riga, the mother of two former cult members told Riga.

The trial is expected to continue next week. Convicts serving life terms can request to be released after serving at least 20 years. The death penalty was abolished in Greece in 1993.

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