In landmark neo-Nazi trial, Greek court finds Golden Dawn party guilty of running criminal organisation

In what is considered the biggest Nazi trial since Nuremberg, a Greek court on Wednesday found the leadership of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and its members guilty of forming and running a criminal organisation.

Awaiting the verdict, around 20,000 were protesting outside of the Court of Appeal in Athens, waving banners reading “They are not innocent” and demanding the imprisonment of Golden Dawn members. 

The landmark verdict by the Athens Court of Appeal came 5.5 years after the trial first began, during which, 453 hearings took place and included the testimonies of 131 witnesses and 68 defendants, ending the longest court hearings in modern times.

The panel of three judges had to issue a verdict on four cases, including the attempted murder of Communist trade unionists and their leader Sotiris Poulikogiannis within the same month, the attempted murder of Egyptian immigrant fisherman Abouzid Embarak in his home in June 2012, and finally the charge of running a criminal organization facing the Golden Dawn leadership.

The most well-known case involves Golden Dawn’s member of a local branch leadership, Giorgos Roupakias who has confessed to murdering anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, known as “Killah P”, stabbing the 34-year-old artist to death just after midnight on September 18, 2013, in Keratsini, Athens.

Although some of the Golden Dawn members have already been found guilty for the killing in Athens of a Pakistani fruit worker, Shahzad Lukman, in January 2013, it was the attack on Fyssas that led to arrest of the party’s political leadership and the opening of a judicial investigation.

The head of the extreme rightwing Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party, Nikos Michaloliakos speaks during a press conference in Athens, Greece, 06 May 2012. The extreme-right Golden Dawn party was set to make its debut in parliament after polling at between 6 and 8 per cent, well ahead of the 3-per-cent threshold needed to enter the legislature. EPA/STR

Golden Dawn, although formed in mid-1980’s by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, an army commander and Holocaust denier, it rose to prominence in 2012, amid Greece’s toughest times, during the economic crisis which prompted popular anger with EU-mandated austerity policies, and gave the party the third place in the national parliament. National elections held in 2019 showed the party falling from the third place to losing all of its parliamentary seats, while the October 7 ruling showed that Golden Dawn cannot operate with impunity.

At the center of the criminal trial under Greece’s penal code were Golden Dawn’s leader, Michaloliakos and 18 former MPs, elected in 2012. Michaloliakos, along with six other MPs, Ilias Kasidiaris, Ioannis Lagos, Christos Pappas, Artemis Matthaiopoulos, Ilias Panagiotaros and Giorgos Germenis, who form the leadership of the neo-nazi party, were found guilty of forming and running a criminal organisation, while the rest of MPs were convicted of joining a criminal organization.

The Appeal Court in Athens also found Roupakias guilty of the murder of anti-fascist rapper Fyssas, while finding the rest of the defendants apart from Stavros Santorinaios and Giorgos Tsakanikas, who were acquitted due to reasonable doubt, guilty as accomplices. Santorinaios and Tsakanikas were found guilty of illegally possessing and bearing weapons. Justice officials said, however, it could take several days of legal proceedings before they are formally announced.

If Golden Dawn was found to be innocent, it could also claim around €8 million in state funding for their parliamentary term that was suspended pending the verdict.

Yet, the judgement’s significance extends Beyond Greece; Golden Dawn has been a “successful model” for far-right organisations that envisage patrolling neighbourhoods, punishing political and ideological opponents, targeting people from immigrant background, and intimidating the opposition whilst gaining electoral ground.

Golden Dawn’s conviction also extends to the European Parliament, as its former MP, Lagos, of the so-called “Chrysi Avgi”, who was among those convicted on Wednesday, now holds a seat in the EU body. Lagos has already been convicted for orchestrating the attack at the Synergeio social centre in Athens in 2013, while an English class for small children was taking place. Following the Greek court’s verdict on Wednesday, MEPs requested from the EP President, David Sassoli to kickstart the necessary procedures that will prohibit the Golden Dawn member from participating in the work of the European Parliament.

News by NewEurope

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