Lady Fleming, 73, Activist in Greek Resistance, Dies
Lady Amalia Fleming, a member of Parliament who had been jailed and tortured for her opposition to the 1967-74 Greek military regime, died in Athens on Wednesday.
The widow of the British scientist who discovered penicillin was 73. Friends said Lady Fleming, a member of the governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement, died of a heart attack brought on by kidney failure. She had been in frail health for several years and in 1975 testified at the trial of 16 junta members that she had been refused water for days at a time even after telling her captors of her kidney problems.
Lady Fleming was born Amalia Kousouri in 1912 in Constantinople, before Greece lost the city to Turkey in World War I and it was renamed Istanbul.
She worked for the resistance during the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Greece, helping British, New Zealand and Australian military officers and Greek Jews to escape by providing them with false identity papers.
After the war, she was awarded a British scholarship for medical studies and in 1946 became Sir Alexander Fleming’s research assistant at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. Fleming had discovered penicillin in 1928.
They married in England in 1953, when he was 72 and she was 37. Fleming died two years later.
During Greece’s military regime, Lady Fleming helped organize opposition to the junta. She became closely associated with the Panhellenic Liberation Movement, a left-wing resistance organization started by current Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. It was the forerunner of his Panhellenic Socialist Movement.
She was arrested by the junta in 1971 on charges of plotting the escape of Alexandros Panaghoulis, who had tried to assassinate strongman Col. George Papadopoulos.
“I will never forget spending 32 days in a military prison where people were being tortured,” she said later. “The civilian prison was paradise by comparison.”
She was sentenced to 16 months for conspiracy but was released in October, 1971, for health reasons and restricted to her Athens apartment. She was stripped of her Greek citizenship in November, 1971, and expelled from Greece as an undesirable alien.
Lady Fleming lived in London until the military regime collapsed in 1974. Three years later, she was elected to Parliament.
She was reelected in 1981 and 1985, but often described herself as “a reluctant political campaigner, interested in social reforms, not public office.