Tuesday

20th Oct 2020

Court verdict sees sun set on Greece's Golden Dawn

  • Flyers for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. An epic five-and-half-year legal case has now seen the party being found guilty of running an organised crime outfit - effectively banning the party (Photo: wikimedia commons)

After the biggest trial of neo-Nazis since some of the Third Reich were convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg in 1945, the overwhelming guilty verdicts on 68 members and leaders of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party this week has sent a clear message to far-right groups in the EU and beyond - many of whom originally modelled themselves on the Greek neo-Nazi movement - that political street violence is not without its legal consequences.

The epic five-and-half-year legal case reached the beginning of the end on Wednesday (7 October), with the extreme right-wing party being found guilty of running an organised crime outfit - effectively banning the party.

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  • A Golden Dawn rally in 2013. Anti-fascist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas was murdered in 2013 by a party member (Photo: alba.christiansen)

The trial was sparked by the brutal attack and later murder in 2013 of anti-fascist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas in Piraeus, after a catalogue of savage political violence, incited and - the court ruling says - often ordered by the leaders of the extremist group.

Golden Dawn members often physically attacked migrants, leftists, trade unionists and almost murdered a group of Egyptian fishermen, to name but a few of the long list of politically-motivated violent incidents attributed to the extremist group.

Nils Muiznieks, the Europe Director of Amnesty International said of the landmark trial: "The accusations against the leaders and members of the Golden Dawn, including the murder of Fyssas, expose a fissure that exists not just within Greece, but across Europe and beyond."

Muiznieks added that the trial verdict will have both an "impact" and be "felt far and wide" by far-right extremist groups, who maintain an aggressive anti-migrant and anti-human rights stance.

Golden Dawn leaders and members who were found guilty on a long list of charges, ranging from murder and attempted murder to racketeering to illegal possession of arms, face jail terms of 15 years or longer.

Many rejoiced as the verdicts were announced, and not just the 20,000 anti-fascist protesters who had gathered outside the court in Athens.

Several political figures welcomed the trial's outcome, including the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis - who does not usually comment on court cases.

"Democracy won today," he wrote on Twitter, adding: "After the Greek people voted the neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn out of the parliament in the last election, today the Greek justice system convicted its leadership of operating as a criminal organisation."

The Greek president Katerina Sakellaropoulou said the verdicts were "an important day for democracy," adding the court ruling was; "a confirmation of the fact that democracy and its institutions are always capable of fending off any attempt to undermine them."

The leader of the Golden Dawn, Nikos Michaloliakos, claimed on Twitter on Thursday that: "they convicted us for our ideas."

"When the illegal immigrants are the majority in Greece, when they surrender the land and sea to Turkey, when millions of Greeks are unemployed in the streets, then they'll remember the Golden Dawn," he added.

Michaloliakos and his 76 follow members and leaders, including 18 of the party's former MPs, now await a lengthy sentencing process which will not be finalised for a few weeks, as their lawyers try to reduce the sentences.

'Regime of Colonels'

With its roots in the far-right 'Regime of the Colonels' (1967 to 1974), the Golden Dawn was the brainchild of Michaloliakos in 1980, though only became a political movement in 1985.

It began to dominate the Greek extreme-right in 2007 and was further fuelled by the EU sovereign debt crisis and subsequent EU-imposed austerity measures in Greece, gaining its first seats in the Greek parliament in 2012, with 21 percent of the vote.

They became the third-largest party in the 2015 elections, though with only 17 seats. In the 2019 elections, the party failed to win any seats, not gaining the required three percent of the vote.

While the sun may have set for the Golden Dawn, its leaders and principal activists facing lenthy jail terms in the coming weeks, the atmosphere remains tense in Athens and some other parts of Greece.

Depending on the exact sentencing, further clashes between the anarchists and leftists and remnants of the extreme-right may ensue.

On Monday, extreme-right vandals daubed slogans formerly used by the Nazis on the Jewish cemetery in Athens and phoned in a hoax bomb scare to the main Athens court on Wednesday.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, meanwhile, said that while they welcomed the verdict, that this is no time "to let our guard down."

Author bio

Jonathan Mitchell is a British freelance journalist based in Athens, Greece, who writes for a wide variety of European and UK newspapers and websites.

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