Former minister and resistance fighter against Greece’s 1967-74 military dictatorship, Sifis Valirakis, was found dead at sea on Sunday night.
According to his wife, Valirakis went alone on a small boat trip on the coast of Eretria, Euboea, where his family has a vacation home.
She reported him missing after he failed to return home.
Port authorities are investigating two scenarios:
- Valirakis slipped, fell from the boat and was hit by his own propeller
- Valirakis’ boat collided with another vessel which caused him to fall in the water before being hit by another boat
The body of the 77-year-old was found on rocks of a small island in the area called “Pezonisi” or “Island of Dreams”.
He located a mile away from his boat, which still had the engine running.
He was born in 1943 in Chania, Crete. His father, Ioannis Valirakis, was an officer in the Hellenic Army and a member of the Centre Union party.
He studied electrical engineering in Germany and Sweden, with a specialisation in industrial automation.
As a leading member of the anti-junta resistance and of the armed branch of the Panhellenic Liberation Movement, Valirakis was wanted by the Greek military regime for three years for bombings and was finally apprehended in 1971. He escaped by cutting the bars in his cell, however he was later arrested on a train heading to Germany. He was jailed on the island of Corfu.
Valyrakis also escaped from the Corfu jail, and swam several kilometers to Albania, only to be arrested as a spy and sentenced to three years of hard labor. At that time, communist Albania still had relations with China, and Papandreou obtained his release through the intermediary of his friend, Cambodia´s then-Sovereign Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who alerted the Chinese to Valyrakis´ plight.
After the fall of the junta, he was elected to parliament the first time for Andreas Papandreou’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in 1977.
He was appointed Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications (October 1981 – November 1984), Deputy Minister of Culture and Sport (July 1985 – June 1988), Deputy Minister of Public Order (June 1988 – July 1989 and July 1994 – March 1995) and Minister of Public Order (March 1995 – January 1996).
On 1 February 2009, Sifis Valirakis was detained for several hours by American authorities immediately after his arrival at New York City’s JFK airport, because his visa had been revoked while he was en route.
Valyrakis is survived by his wife Mina, a well-known painter, and two children.