Golden Dawn leadership found guilty of running a criminal organization

Following a marathon trial lasting five-and-a-half years, an Athens court docket deemed that crimes by Golden Dawn members together with homicide, tried homicide, assault and possession of weapons weren’t the actions of people working on their very own initiative. Instead they have been instantly deliberate and ordered by a occasion leadership that employed violence to eradicate perceived enemies.

Eighteen former occasion lawmakers, together with chief Nikos Michaloliakos, a holocaust denier who based Golden Dawn within the 1980s as a neo-Nazi organization, have been amongst these found guilty on Wednesday. Individual sentences are to be introduced within the coming days.

There was a sturdy police presence across the court docket on Wednesday as left-wing events, commerce unions, and anti-fascist and human rights teams staged rallies to coincide with the decision.

Protesters and riot police then clashed after the ruling. Police mentioned a peaceable crowd of a minimum of 20,000 individuals dispersed, however minutes after the decision was introduced, a smaller group of round 600 individuals attacked officers with stones and Molotov cocktails.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted that it was a “truly historic day for Greece, democracy and the rule of law.”

“Αfter the Greek people voted the neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn out of Parliament in the last election, today the Greek justice system convicted its leadership of operating as a criminal organization,” he added.

The Golden Dawn leaders have denied the fees from the beginning, claiming they’re victims of political persecution.

Dozens of others — occasion members and alleged affiliate — have been convicted on costs that vary from homicide to perjury. Most of these are linked to violent assaults between 2012 and 2013. They embrace the deadly stabbing of common anti-fascist hip hop singer Pavlos Fyssas and assaults on immigrants and left-wing activists.

The determination concludes over 450 days in court docket and lots of of testimonies and hours of information collected from the cellphones and laptops of these arrested. These embrace images of Golden Dawn recruits at coaching camps posing with assault weapons and giving Nazi-type salutes.

“There is clear and unequivocal message in this landmark case, that hate crimes will no longer be tolerated, [the decision] can also have a significant impact on preventing racist violence in future,” Nils Muiznieks, head of Amnesty International Europe, mentioned forward of the decision.

Thanassis Kambagiannis, a lawyer from the prosecution group, has described the trial as “the largest court hearing of Nazis since Nuremberg.”

The trial began in April 2015, with near 70 members of Golden Dawn charged below the so-called “mafia clause.”

Protesters at the anti-fascist rally, embrace each other following the announcement of the verdict, outside the courthouse in Athens on Wednesday.

Among these current have been victims of racist violence, some displaying knife scars, waving banners with the phrases: “They are not Innocent. Nazis in jail.”

Rich in symbolism, the decision affords a second of catharsis in a nation nonetheless therapeutic from the injuries of its current financial and political previous, turmoil that pushed voters to extremes.

The verdict is “a strong institutional embankment against violence. It shows that democracy disposes instruments and institutions which can punish organized totalitarian, anti-democratic practices and criminal actions,” mentioned Lamprini Rori, a lecturer in politics on the UK’s University of Exeter.

The rise of Golden Dawn

Golden Dawn started within the 1980s because the brainchild of Nikos Michaloliakos, who had been handpicked by one of Greece’s former dictators to guide a far-right youth occasion after the autumn of the nation’s seven-year army regime, and the restoration of democracy, in 1974.

Former MP and leader of Golden Dawn party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, testifies before the criminal appeal court in Athens, in November 2019.

Investigative journalist Dimitris Psarras, who has written extensively about Golden Dawn, has mentioned that the occasion was from the very first day based to “promote Nazi ideology,” and “never stopped believing in racism and anti-Semitism.”

Golden Dawn’s phenomenal ascent lately was instantly linked to the Greek monetary disaster that started in 2010. A fringe group with simply 0.3% of the vote in 2009, Golden Dawn skyrocketed to a 7% share within the 2012 election, which got here after two belt-tightening bailouts in two years from the nation’s collectors — the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The turmoil supplied little hope for a nation feeling more and more betrayed by its political leaders, its European friends, and worldwide establishments.

With an economic system akin to that of America’s Great Depression and youth unemployment hovering at 50%, Golden Dawn exploited the ensuing anger, despair and lack of rule of legislation to infiltrate the nation’s mainstream politics.

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It entered the 300-seat parliament with 18 MPs, on its technique to changing into Greece’s third largest political power. It was the primary time since World War Two that an overtly Nazi group had gained such prominence in a European nation.

To embed its foothold, Golden Dawn targeted on ‘the widespread man,’ partaking with communities and occupying the area the struggling state was unable to fill. With extra individuals depending on meals coupons, the occasion created meals distribution networks, and later blood banks — however these, like all the things else the occasion supplied, have been strictly for ‘Greeks solely.’

The fervently anti-migrant occasion brazenly used venomous rhetoric in opposition to foreigners, with leadership figures saying they have been “looking for ways to clean the stench.”

Golden Dawn’s phrases and actions turned extra brazenly excessive as its reputation grew. Reports of road violence — primarily in opposition to migrants, but in addition political opponents and members of the LGBTQ neighborhood — turned frequent. Torchlit rallies grew, with supporters elevating their arms in fascist salutes.

Europe’s far-right events have been fast to distance themselves. Instead the Golden Dawn model, with a brand intently resembling the swastika and virtually an identical slogans to these as soon as utilized by the Hitler Youth, turned more and more engaging to ultra-right wingers from all over the world who flocked to Greece to be taught from the occasion’s strategies.

Among them was Andrew Anglin, editor of The Daily Stormer, one of the largest neo-Nazi web sites within the US, who attended Golden Dawn conferences.

The starting of the top

The homicide of 34-year-old anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed by a self-professed Golden Dawn sympathizer in Athens in September 2013, led to widespread shock among the many Greek public.

A swift crackdown adopted, with the occasion’s chief and lawmakers arrested and positioned in pre-trial detention. They denied any direct hyperlinks to Fyssas’ homicide and different assaults, and claimed to be the victims of political persecution.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that Golden Dawn operated as a paramilitary group, with the occasion leadership instigating violence.

Magda Fyssa, the mother of murdered singer Pavlos Fyssas, reacts in court following the verdict on October 7.

Despite the arrests, Golden Dawn’s reputation continued to rise, however its electoral base shifted from city areas to different components of the nation, together with islands struggling to deal with a massive inflow of migrants and refugees.

The trial started in spring 2015, a few months after nationwide elections that dropped at energy Greece’s first laborious left authorities and noticed Golden Dawn are available third because the nation unraveled into a political dystopia.

The yr that adopted, greater than 1 million migrants and refugees reached Europe’s shores by Greece, sparking the largest refugee disaster in EU historical past.

A cautionary story

Seven years on from Fyssas’ dying, Golden Dawn stands deflated and fragmented. The victory of the center-right occasion New Democracy within the 2019 elections, the primary since Greece’s exit from its bailout regime a yr earlier, signaled a clear break with years of firebrand populism and a return to mainstream politics. For the primary time since coming into parliament, Golden Dawn didn’t win a seat.

But worrying indicators persist. As prosecution lawyer Thanassis Kambagiannis explains, “Greece’s constitution does not allow the outlawing of political parties. This does not exist in the country’s legal system. And there is no law to stop the founding of any new party.”

The breakaway occasion Greeks for the Homeland, led by Ilias Kassidiaris — a outstanding Golden Dawn determine who as soon as famously slapped a feminine leftist politician throughout a dwell TV program — is gaining floor on an anti-migrant ticket, in line with current polling. That is regardless of Kassidiaris being amongst these tried, and now convicted.

Violence in opposition to immigrants and refugees linked to extreme-right teams has been reported on a quantity of events for the reason that trial began, totally on islands that host massive migrant camps.

To stop extremism from resurfacing, Rori says, the problems that foster extremism should be tackled. “If the government’s capacity in managing immigration proves low this can eventually foster electoral demand for anti-immigrant party choices.”

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