Tapped phone calls further reveal Golden Dawn’s police ties
Evidence presented at trial of 69 Golden Dawn members detail the close ties between police and the neo-fascist party.
Athens, Greece – Wiretapped phone calls entered into evidence in the ongoing trial of Golden Dawn have further revealed the neo-fascist party’s connections with police.
Sixty-nine members of Golden Dawn, which has 16 seats in Greece’s parliament, are on trial for allegedly operating a criminal organisation.
Last Monday and Wednesday, a series of phone calls and SMS discussions entered into evidence revealed extensive ties and coordination between Golden Dawn members and the Hellenic Police, including the counterterrorism and riot control units.
Other phone calls, which were recorded during wiretapping operations by intelligence services, detailed the communications between party members about the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas on September 18, 2013.
Golden Dawn member Giorgos Roupakias admitted to fatally stabbing Fyssas. Several Golden Dawn members were also arrested and charged. In total, 69 members, including the entire 2013 parliamentary group, have been on trial since 2015.
The trial is expected to conclude this year.
Much of the newly entered evidence focuses on recordings of conversations involving Sotiris Develekos, a Golden Dawn member who has been accused of involvement in a recent attack on a left-wing social centre in Piraeus.
In one of the exchanges following the deadly attack, Tasos Pantazis, head of Golden Dawn’s Perama branch, boasted of a counterterrorism police officer providing him with the identity of an informant.
Pantazis has been accused of involvement in brutal attacks on communists, anti-fascists and migrants in the past.
On September 25, 2013, less than two weeks after Fyssas’ killing, Develekos spoke directly with a police officer in the riot unit who informed him of the movement of demonstrators during an anti-fascist protest against Golden Dawn.
“The unions are going to Syntagma [Square],” the officer informed Develekos. “There are more than 5,000 protesters … The [police] squads are in the place they are supposed to be, I presume.”
Develekos asked: “Keep briefing me: Do they have sticks and stuff?”
Golden Dawn’s connection with, and infiltration of, police forces has long been documented in Greece.
Thanasis Kambagiannis, a prosecution lawyer in the Golden Dawn trial, explained that much of the evidence in the trial examines the relationship between the party and the police.
“It is constantly one of the most important subjects being discussed,” he told Al Jazeera.
“In many cases, the court is looking at incidents where there was a physical presence of police during attacks … and there have been cases when police [were] arresting victims of racist violence and deporting them.”
He added: “It is a constant theme in the trial, and it is now considered obvious.”
At the time of publication, neither the Hellenic Police, nor Golden Dawn’s press office had replied to Al Jazeera’s request for a comment.
‘This wasn’t any random person’
In a conversation between Develekos and fellow party member Giorgos Tsakanikas, the two discussed the fatal stabbing of Fyssas.
“I think we have a big dick in our butt,” Develekos said. “The game is going to get harder. This wasn’t any random person. Between us, this guy was someone on the streets.”
The two went on to express their concern about the legal backlash they expected Golden Dawn to receive in the wake of the 34-year-old rapper’s murder.
In another conversation with Develekos, someone urged him to deny any knowledge of Roupakias, who subsequently admitted to the killing of Fyssas.
Develekos said that he planned on returning home to destroy evidence before police officers raided his residence. “I’m going back to the house to make things disappear,” he commented.
Elsewhere, he admitted that Roupakias was a Golden Dawn member, despite the party’s denial at the time.
In another phone call, Develekos spoke directly with party chief Nikolaos Michaloliakos about charges he was dealt over the alleged possession of firearms and other weapons.
And in yet another surveilled conversation, Develekos spoke with his mother about Panagiotis Fyssas, the father of the late rapper.
His mother said: “The father of the kid who died says he wants the head of the killer.”
Develekos responded with an apparent promise to kill Panagiotis Fyssas: “I’ll tell you what, tell him he’ll meet his son [in the grave].”
‘We f***** those communists’
Messages also highlighted other attacks carried out by Golden Dawn party members.
In an SMS message dated September 12, 2013, Ioannis Lagos, a high-ranking Golden Dawn official, told Develekos that he and other party members attacked communist trade unionists in Perama and Nikaia, a pair of neighbourhoods in Piraeus.
“We f***** those communists today in Nikaia and Perama,” he said. “They went out to hang posters, and we slaughtered them.”
He added: “Forty of our people are hunting them (communists) down now.”
Develekos replied: “Is there a bone left for us?”
The discussion was apparently about a brutal attack on trade unionists with PAME, a workers’ union affiliated with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which took place on the same day.
During that incident, which occurred a week before Fyssas’ killing, a group of Golden Dawn members attacked PAME activists while they pasted fliers on the walls of several neighbourhoods in Piraeus.
In yet another recording, Develekos was overheard making violent remarks about Pakistani migrants while driving.
“Asshole,” he said, ostensibly referring to a Pakistani migrant who offered to clean his windshield at a stoplight.
“You f****** pussy. I will stab you … Pakistanis wanted to clean my windshield.”
‘Re-legitimise the project’
Dating back to the 1980s, Golden Dawn was formally registered as a political party in 1993.
It was largely confined to the margins of political society until 2012, when it made large electoral gains that allowed it to enter the parliament for the first time the following year.
In 2015, Golden Dawn became the third largest party in the Hellenic Parliament.
It has been accused of widespread attacks on migrants and political opponents, including the fatal stabbing of Fyssas and the January 2013 killing of Shahzad Luqman, a 27-year-old Pakistani migrant labourer.
In the wake of Fyssas’ killing, the number of hate crimes and far-right attacks decreased drastically for several years.
However, Hellenic Police documented a sharp rise in hate crimes last year, with incidents motivated by race, skin colour or national origin nearly tripling compared with 2016.
Many of the attacks that took place in 2017 have been attributed to other far-right groups, such as the previously unknown Crypteia organisation and Combat 18 Hellas, a neo-Nazi group responsible for dozens of attacks on squats, left-wing social centres and Jewish memorials.
Dimitris Psarras, an Athens-based investigative journalist and author of the Black Bible of Golden Dawn, has documented the organisation since the early 1990s.
He explained that the Golden Dawn attacks generally bear consistent hallmarks: The assaults are extensively planned, include a member who keeps track of time and issues orders, and end within a matter of minutes.
He doubted that Golden Dawn is capable of abandoning violence. “They are fanatical Nazis,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Even in the past, it wasn’t only Golden Dawn responsible for attacks,” he continued, alluding to the recent spate of far-right attacks by groups like Crypteia and Combat 18 Hellas.
“Of course, we had many spontaneous attacks or others carried out by local organisations.”
Psarras added: “This is not new. Only after the first shock with the murder of Fyssas, this kind of violence declined for a period. Now it’s gone back up.”
For his part, Kambagiannis argued that an acquittal would allow Golden Dawn to regroup and carry out yet more violence.
“If they’re able to avoid being convicted in the trial, it means their whole project will be re-legitimised and will be able to restart,” he warned.