Papadopoulos, ex-dictator of Greece, dies in jail at 80

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GEORGE Papadopoulos, who became the leader of Greece's 1967-74 military dictatorship, died of cancer yesterday. For the past three years, the imprisoned 80-year-old had been suffering from a degenerative muscle disorder.

On 21 April 1967, Papadopoulos led a bloodless coup which toppled the parliamentary government, causing left-wingers and intellectuals to flee the extreme right-wing order which he imposed. The junta's ultra-conservative regime permitted little political dissent and thousands of Greeks were tortured, imprisoned and banished.

Papadopoulos, born in southern Greece, served in the Second World War and then fought in the1946-49 Greek Civil War with the nationalist forces that defeated the Communist insurgents. Following the coup, he crushed a counter rebellion led by King Constantine of Greece in December 1967. Papadopoulos declared Greece a republic in May 1973 and the royal family have been exiled ever since.

Papadopoulos, a short and burly man, imposed a regime which was initially welcomed as an alternative to the political instability of the past. Villagers benefited from handouts from social services while businessmen, including the shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, prospered. In November 1973, Papadopoulos was toppled by his military police chief, Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis. The latter's regime fell in July 1974 when a planned coup in Cyprus prompted a counter-invasion by Turkey.

Papadopoulos was charged with insurrection and high treason in 1975, after civilian rule was restored. He refused to testify, saying only: "Let history judge my action."

The junta officers were jailed in Korydallos Prison near Athens where Papadopoulos spent his time composing his memoirs. From his jail cell, he led the National Political Union party, which won a seat in the European elections.

Obituary, Review, page 6