A Greek neo-Nazi group is smashed by the courts
IT TOOK SEVEN years, but justice was finally delivered. On October 7th Nikos Michaloliakos, the founder of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, and his six closest henchmen were found guilty of operating a “criminal organisation” by a court in Athens. Another 11 former MPs and dozens of hangers-on were at the same time found guilty of being members of their gang. A crowd of several thousand gathered outside the court cheered when the verdict was announced.
While Mr Michaloliakos was making stridently nationalist speeches in parliament, Golden Dawn thugs trained by former Greek paratroopers carried out violent attacks against migrant workers and supporters of the still-active Greek communist party. Their favourite hunting grounds were Keratsini and Perama, both impoverished workers’ suburbs in western Athens.
Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old leftist rapper whose career as “Killah P” was beginning to take off, was fatally stabbed on September 18th 2013, as he came out of a bar in Keratsini after watching a football match with his girlfriend. The self-confessed perpetrator was Giorgios Roupakias, a Golden Dawn supporter who had worked at the party’s headquarters. He pleaded self-defence. Other Golden Dawn stalwarts were found guilty of the attempted murder of several Egyptian crew-members working on Greek fishing boats, and of a group of left-wing activists from PAME, a communist trade union.
Until the Fyssas killing, the right-of-centre New Democracy government, then led by Antonis Samaras, had turned a blind eye to Golden Dawn’s extremism. After it, and under pressure from his party’s socialist coalition partner, Pasok, a full investigation was launched. Mr Michaloliakos spent 18 months (the maximum possible) in pre-trial detention.
Yet the case only went to trial in 2015, after Alexis Tsipras’s radical left-wing Syriza party came to power. With 68 defendants, 60 defence lawyers and 250 witnesses, plus frequent adjournments on procedural grounds, some observers worried that it could fall apart. The state prosecutor called for numerous acquittals on grounds of insufficient evidence.
To some analysts Greece’s flirtation with right-wing populism was mostly a consequence of its eight-year economic crisis: output dropped by 25% while unemployment reached 40% in the hardest-hit places, such as Keratsini. Between 2012 and 2019 (by when the economy had begun growing again) Golden Dawn was the third-largest party in parliament. But in last year’s general election it failed to reach the 3% threshold for entering the legislature. (Ioannis Lagos, one of its most prominent members, had earlier racked up enough votes to become a member of the European Parliament under the banner of his own party, National Popular Consciousness.)
Sentences will be handed down by the weekend, court officials say. Golden Dawn has not been officially banned, but with its leadership likely to face 10-15 years in jail, it is unlikely to regroup. Mr Michaloliakos, 62, a Holocaust denier, admirer of Marine Le Pen (leader of France’s far-right National Rally) and organiser of fascist-style torchlit marches, has few supporters left.
Author: | Post link: https://www.economist.com/europe/2020/10/07/a-greek-neo-nazi-group-is-smashed-by-the-courts
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