Activists and experts welcome landmark move to criminalise group as positive first step against European fascism.
The Golden Dawn group, a self-proclaimed fascist entity with its origins in the 1980s, has been found guilty of several crimes by a court in Athens, including running a criminal organisation.
Another prominent case involved Golden Dawn supporter Giorgos Roupakias who had confessed to murdering anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, or “Killah P”, stabbing the 34-year-old to death just after midnight on September 18, 2013, in Athens. Roupakias was found guilty and faces a life sentence.
The prosecutions were sparked by the murder of Fyssas.
“Pavlos, you did it!” the rapper’s mother Magda shouted outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced, her hands raised in triumph. She had attended most of the hearing’s 453 sessions.
— Nina Reizi (@ninarei) October 7, 2020
A panel of three judges at a court of appeals in the Greek capital delivered their verdict on Wednesday, concluding a trial that has lasted five and a half years.
The courtroom and more than 10,000 anti-racism protesters outside the courthouse, who had been demanding a guilty verdict for hours before the result was announced, cheered when the judges revealed their decision.
But the mood turned sour as police were quick to release tear gas and use water cannon to disperse crowds. Witnesses said people were seen gasping as the tear gas filled the air.
Η ώρα που η αστυνομία αποφασίζει να διαλύσει την πορεία. Χωρίς λόγο. pic.twitter.com/9tkY0T9Cfe
— Jaquou Utopie (@Jaquoutopie) October 7, 2020
Petros Konstantinou, who heads Keefra, an anti-racism organisation, told Al Jazeera: “This is a great anti-fascist victory. I think we won. They should all go to prison immediately.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “Today’s verdict by the three-member Criminal Court of Appeals regarding the actions of Golden Dawn, ends a traumatic cycle of the country’s public life. Its political dimension has, fortunately, been judged by the victory of democracy, which expelled the Nazi formation from parliament (in elections). Now, the independent judiciary is giving its own answer.
“As prime minister, I consciously refrain from commenting on court decisions. As a Greek citizen, however, I share the universal satisfaction for the recognition of its criminal character.”
A total 68 had been on trial, including the entire Golden Dawn leadership, accused of four crimes.
Reading out the verdict, presiding judge Maria Lepenioti said Golden Dawn founder and leader Nikos Michaloliakos and other senior members were guilty of running a criminal organisation.
None of the party’s senior members was present in the court.
Michaloliakos and fellow senior members face jail sentences from five to 15 years.
Golden Dawn members were also found guilty of attacking Communist trade unionists and their leader Sotiris Poulikogiannis the same month and in the attempted murder of Egyptian immigrant fisherman Abouzid Embarak in his home in June 2012.
Wednesday’s verdict sets the stage for the high-profile case to proceed with the court looking into sentencing for the murder of Fyssas and other violent attacks.
Golden Dawn was at its political peak at the time the young rapper was killed, having won 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament in 2012 amid anger over a financial crisis in Greece that discredited mainstream political parties.
Three years later, it also sent three deputies to the European parliament in another strong showing.
But the investigation took its toll, causing a number of senior members to defect. In the last election in 2019, the party failed to win a single seat.
Human rights group Amnesty International, which helped organise a network to record racist violence in Greece, said Wednesday’s verdict would boost efforts to fight hate crimes.
“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,” said Nils Muiznieks, Europe director at Amnesty
With reporting by Katy Fallon in Athens.