Greek court rules Golden Dawn party a criminal organisation
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Greek court rules Golden Dawn party a criminal organisation

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The self-proclaimed fascist political party Golden Dawn has been found guilty of multiple charges by a Greek court. The verdict renders the political group a criminal organisation.

Presiding judge Maria Lepenioti found Golden Dawn founder Nikos Michaloliakos and other senior members guilty of running a criminal organisation. None of the senior members were present to hear the verdict. Senior members face between five and 15 years in jail.

Of the 68 Golden Dawn members on trial, 51-year-old Giorgos Roupakis has been found guilty of stabbing 34-year-old rapper Pavlos Fyssas to death in 2013. Roupakis faces a life sentence.

Other members had been accused of attempted murder targeting several communist trade unionists and one immigrant fisherman from Egypt.

“For all of us Greeks, this is a historic day. For those of us at the receiving end of their death threats, a victory. For the loved ones of those murdered in the name of their sick ideology, justice,” commented Manos Moschopoulos, senior program officer of Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE).

According to Moschopoulos, today’s verdict effectively renders Golden Dawn illegal. The process of sentencing has now begun, but it is expected that the party leaders will face imprisonment.

Over the course of the trial, which began in 2015, members stated that they had been trained to handle weapons and that the group used Nazi symbols. Chief prosecutor Adamantia Economou argued that the leaders of the group should be cleared, saying that there was no evidence that they helped to organise or carry out any of the attacks.

The group reportedly funded itself through money laundering, trafficking, blackmail and protection rings.

More than 10,000 Greeks gathered outside the Athens Court of Appeals on Wednesday morning in hopes of a guilty verdict, Al Jazeera reported. One participant said this could well be “the biggest trial of Nazis since Nuremberg”.

Shortly after the verdict was announced and protestors had begun to celebrate, Greek police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protestors.

Golden Dawn does not label itself as a neo-nazi organisation. The group has been called ultra-nationalist, neo-fascist and neo-nazi by outsiders since it was founded in 1985. Its official logo bears resemblance to a swastika.

The trial against Golden Dawn started in 2015 and was prompted by the murder in Piraeus in 2013 of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a self-confessed party member. Golden Dawn was charged and now found guilty of being a criminal organisation.

In a hearing in the European Parliament in September 2018, investigative journalist Dimitries Parras described Golden Dawn as a party with a neo-Nazi ideology, created by the economic crisis in Greece and a feeling of betrayal by the politicians.

Law professor Niklas  Alivizatos explained that the Greek constitution does not allow a political party to be banned for its extreme ideology. The only way was to treat Golden Dawn as the criminal organization it is. The trial dragged on for more than five years because of its complex nature, with a large number of people involved, legal obstacles, and the lack of appropriate premises.

At the height of its power in Greece, Golden Dawn received about 7 % of the votes in the parliamentary elections during 2012 – 2015 in the country. That percentage fell to 2,9 % in the last elections in 2019, leaving it without any seat in the parliament. However, in the European elections, it received 4,9 % and one seat (down from 3 seats).

According to analysts, the power of Golden Dawn prospered due to a number of factors from 2010 onwards such as the economic crisis and the immigration issue. Despite the fact that some of these factors still exist to this day, analysts agree that the Greek people have now seen the true face of Golden Dawn.

In fact, the party is being dissolved as its most important executives have left and have started to create new parties.

“The Greek society is now very well aware of what Golden Dawn stands for,” a Greek diplomatic source told The Brussels Times. After the verdict, there are no conditions in place for the party to once again increase its influence in Greek society.

Amée Zoutberg
The Brussels Times