LAST Wednesday, the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn was found guilty of running a criminal organisation following a trial involving seven of its leaders.
The ruling concluded a five-and-half-years trial where Golden Dawn member Giorgos Roupakias was found guilty for the murder of anti-fascist singer Pavlos Fyssas in 2013 and nine other defendants guilty for being accessories to murder.
The same court in Athens also convicted 11 other former Members of Parliament for participating in a criminal organisation, three defendants for the attempted murder of Egyptian fisherman Abouzid Embarak in 2012 and four defendants for grievous bodily harm against three members of the PAME (All-Workers Militant Front) trade union.
In total, 68 members of the far-right organisation were on trial in what some described as the biggest trial of Nazis since Nuremberg and a celebration of Greek democracy.
The leaders have now been sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks, said: “This verdict sends a clear message to political groups with aggressive anti-migrant and anti-human rights agendas in Greece and across Europe that violent and racist criminal activity – whether perpetrated by individuals on the street or members of parliament, will not go unpunished.
On Wednesday, shortly after the ruling was pronounced, protests erupted outside the tribunal between anti-Golden Dawn militants and the police, who used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.
Who is Golden Dawn?
The fascist political party Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi in Greek) was founded in 1985 by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, a former member of the Greek Army and Holocaust denier. Its recognition as a political party in 1993 did not put a halt to the party’s historic violent charges against other activists, migrants and refugees.
During the 1990s, students at the Athens University of Economics and Business were attacked by 30 Golden Dawn members in a protest about the Macedonia naming dispute.
Later in 1998, a left-wing student was assaulted by a leading party member, Antonis Androutsopoulos, who was convicted of attempted murder with a 21-years jail sentence but was later released.
The party gained popularity in 2010 through local elections in Athens.
Feeding on Greece’s economic crisis, with a manifesto focused on immigration, unemployment and austerity, the neo-Nazis grew their electorate during the 2012 national elections as they received 6.91 per cent of the vote giving them 21 seats in Parliament.
Proud nationalists, members of Golden Dawn failed to maintain their seats in Parliament in consecutive 2019 European and Greek legislative elections. The low results led to the closure of its headquarters last year.
The rise of populism in Europe
While the dissolution of Golden Dawn’s main office was welcomed by anti-fascists groups all around Europe, many were awaiting the trial of the organisation this year as a final blow to its ventures.
“Golden Dawn’s activities exposed a fissure that exists not just within Greek society but across Europe and beyond. Today’s landmark ruling is a recognition of the systemic threat posed to our societies by a violent, racist group and a commitment that this threat must not be allowed to continue.
“Today’ verdict is the first step to deliver justice for the victims of hate crimes and discriminatory attacks and must serve as a stark reminder of the dangers of demonizing and scapegoating entire populations. We hope this judgement will mark a turning point to deter racist violence and hate crimes in the future,” said Muižnieks.
The rise of neo-Nazism, fascism and populism has been a constant in Europe and in the United States in the past few years.
Though all containing variations, these far-right movements all promote nationalism, sovereignty and tougher immigration policies. The most extreme fringes such as neo-nazism and neo-fascism also promote hatred and attack minorities.
If the leaders of Golden Dawn are now recognised as criminals, and the party banned as of last week’s decision, nationalist ideas are still alive in Greece.
Elliniki Lysi (The Greek Solution), another far-right party created in 2016 but considered as less extreme than Golden Dawn, sits in both European and Greek Parliament.
Amongst its values, the adoration of Viktor Orban, the installation of an electric fence on Greece’s border with Turkey and the rallying cry “Greece First” on the model of Trump’s “America First”.
This article was amended on October 14 to include the sentencing of the leaders.
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