Neo-fascist party members found guilty of assaults against left-wing critics and migrants.
In a landmark verdict in Greece, an Athens court found the neo-fascist party Golden Dawn guilty of running a criminal organization targeting migrants and left-wing critics. The trial began five years ago in a temporary courtroom set up in the country’s largest high-security prison. Eventually, a three-judge panel found the party was tied to fatal attacks including the 2013 stabbing of a left-wing rapper, Pavlos Fyssas. Giorgos Roupakias, the perpetrator, was found guilty of murder and Fyssas’ mother, Magda, was present while the court read the verdict. An additional five party supporters and members were found guilty of attempted murder over 2012 attacks on three Egyptian fishermen and four were found guilty of “causing bodily harm” over 2013 assaults on members of Greece’s Communist Party trade union.
The Golden Dawn party originally came into existence in the 1908s and rose to become Greece’s third largest political party by 2012, using the public’s angst amid the financial crisis as leverage. From 2012 to 2019, the party maintained its supporters by re-envisioning itself as fighting the system from within while retaining ties to neo-fascist parties in other European countries and in the United States.
Ultimately, 2013 would prove to be the year of the Golden Dawn’s downfall. Just days after the rapper’s death, police arrested the entire party leadership and began its investigation. The trial began in April 2015 with a 3,000-page case file, 69 defendants and 120 witnesses for the prosecution.
“Today is an important day for democracy,” Greece’s president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, said. “Today’s decision is a confirmation of the fact that democracy and its institutions are always capable of fending off any attempt to undermine them.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis added that the ruling “brought an end to a traumatic cycle in the country’s public life. After the ballot box, the Nazi entity was also condemned in court. Democracy won today.”
Nils Muiznieks, Europe’s director at Amnesty International said of the verdict, “The accusations against the leaders and members of Golden Dawn, including the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, expose a fissure that exists not just within Greece but across Europe and beyond. The impact of this verdict, in what is an emblematic trial of an extreme far-right party with an aggressive anti-migrant and anti-human rights stance, will be felt far beyond Greece’s borders.”
Speaking before the decision, Elena Karvouni, 68, said that it was important for her to be there despite the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. “As a mother and as a citizen of this country that has fought with blood against fascism, it wasn’t possible that I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
“It is my duty to be here,” agreed Giannis, a 19-year-old student, choosing to withhold his last name “I didn’t know Pavlos Fyssas personally but someone else could have also been in his place, it could have been me. We don’t tolerate groups like Golden Dawn. It needs to be condemned.”
Former party members, including a one-time Golden Dawn spokesperson, Ilias Kasidiaris, continue to run their own spin-off parties with similar views and Golden Dawn denied any direct link to the attacks, describing the charges against its leadership as “politically motivated” and “a conspiracy.”