The ongoing trial against the neo-Nazi party “Golden Dawn” is testing society’s democratic reflexes.
Photo credits: “Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair”, Duration: 90', Omnia TV and Arte | Yemaya Productions
In 2012 “Golden Dawn” entered the Greek Parliament with 18 MPs. The roots of the far-right structure, however, are traced back in time, in 1980, when it was founded by its current leader, Nikos Michaloliakos. “Golden Dawn” began as a movement of ideas, publishing a magazine of the same name, leaving a pure ideological mark of Nazism: “We are Nazis […] because in the miracle of the German Revolution of 1933 we saw the Force that would redeem mankind from the Jewish domination” 5, May 1981). It didn’t stop with the magazine, but it went down the streets. At first, we saw racist slogans on the walls and then attacks. The first outbreaks occurred in the 1990s in left-wing organizations and then in immigrants.
Since 1993, as a party, its representatives have stopped referring to national-socialism, denying the label of the fascist organization and defining themselves as nationalists. “We are nationalists and hatred is a healthy human feeling when it is directed against sub-human beings. They are stinkers, garbage of the earth and we will not leave until the last of these scums is gone “, said the MP of “Golden Dawn”, Elias Panagiotaros.
At that time, they were not known, as they are today, but with their action they drew the attention of the first journalists, such as Dimitris Psarras, one of the most profound researchers of the organization, covering and studying the action of “Golden Dawn” for almost three decades. But why did it take so many years for the organization to be brought to the courtroom?
For a long time, “Golden Dawn” has been exploiting the economic crisis that leaves more and more intense scars in the society and the citizens, as well as xenophobia. It creates an anti-monumental narrative and speaks populist, organizing common meals “only for Greeks”, asking for identity from the citizens to verify their national “purity”. At the same time, it acts criminally, murderously and in an extremist way with the tolerance of the political system, the police’s insanity, the silence of journalists and the media as “allies”.
In September 17, 2013, a knife in the heart killed a young 34-year-old musician, in a cafe in Keratsini. Pavlos Fissas, whose music talks about refugees, immigrants and antifascism, surrounded by a group of over 40 people in the “Golden Dawn” with bats in their hands, still had his senses and shouted to the police officers “He stabbed me, arrest him “, pointing to his assassin, George Roupakia, leader of the organization in Nikaia.
The request for instant justice is more obvious than ever, especially after a series of brutal attacks by Golden Dawn members, with the worst one being that of the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. Only then, there is an indictment against Golden Dawn as a crime organization and its leader, deputies and other members are being arrested. That is how the most important trial in Modern Greek history begins. On the one hand, its size is unprecedented, with 69 people being accused, 300 witnesses, 120 defense advocates and state advocates, journalists and photographers. The phenomenon of a whole parliamentary group being charged of such a crime has never seen before in Greece. It should be, of course, underlined that keeping all the procedural safeguards and the outcome of the entire Golden Dawn trial, is not only of high importance for the Greek society, but there are a lot at stake globally as well.
But even with a trial of such importance, the news coverage is not equal of its size, with many news outlets not mentioning it on purpose and continuously. Two and a half years after its beginning, peoples’ interest of the trial has faded largely. Because of the importance of the trial, we believe that it is our duty to monitor it closely and lift the veil of fear. Showing it so publicly is what guarantees that the Golden Dawn actions will be unveiled. “Fear does not stop us, only moves us forward. The trial concerns us all”. That is what the Lawyers against the Fascist Movement, state. Its peoples’ democratic duty to be well informed.
At the Golden Dawn trial, there are four major cases being tried, with the first one being that of Egyptian fishing workers (06/12/2012/). Members of the Golden Dawn tried to break the glass windows of their house, while at the same time they were shouting “We will fuck your mother” and “Now you will learn what it means to be in the Golden Dawn”. After all that, they attacked Aboudjid Ebarak with iron slopes, causing him heavy fractures, edemas and a fractured lung. Second is the one where members of the Golden Dawn ambushed members of the leftist organization PAME, hitting them with heavy wooden pieces, police baton and even axes, all while yelling “Commies, you will die”. Third one is the murder of Pavlos Fyssas and fourth one is that of forming and leading a crime organization. Of course in the trial file there are even more cases, such as the attack against two Albanian women, the pogroms and arsons against Roma populations, the murder of Sahzat Loukman and the attempted murder of a young school student.
As we speak, the protected witnesses are being questioned, with the lawyers of the Golden Dawn insisting that they have nothing to be afraid of and that they shouldn’t testify under protection. Even though the intimidation is le as the trial goes on, in the 194th court gathering, in which ex members of the organization would testify under protection, outside of the court a charging order tried to brutally attack a group of women. Evgenia Kouniaki, an antifascist lawyer and a prosecutor, was hit in the face as she got out of a bus. She was able to identify the leader of her attackers as the bodyguard of Nikos Mihaloliakos, leader of the Golden Dawn, but the police did not prosecute him.
In the meantime, inside the trial room, the first protected witness, spoke with an altered voice and asked to be forgiven by the mother-symbol, Magda Fyssa, who has never missed one single trial day and has shown endless courage and bottomless strength, because in her own words, she feels she owns this to Pavlos, to herself and to every unborn child.
Another indictment of polices’ not doing anything and even cooperating with the Golden Dawn, is the fact that instead of prosecuting its members, they just tried to push them away. The 25 people that were prosecuted after being accused by the opposite sides lawyers, managed to contact deputies and lawyers of the Golden Dawn, such as Elias Kasidiaris, even though it was prohibited by the police forces, and on top of that they were later released. “This is a never before seen movement of political responsibility by the organization”, as it was stated by the opposition lawyer, Thanasis Kampagiannis. It should be noted that Giorgos Roupakias, who is being charged with the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, told the police: “I did it, don’t say anything, I am one of your own”.
Someone who follows the trial closely, can clearly see that even the Golden Dawn’s lawyers act like an organization, causing tension and quarrels, not showing respect to the judges, the witnesses, the opposition lawyers and the public itself. Those are all lies. “Oh, so now you don’t know, then why don’t you tell us what you know?” , such ironic and provoking words have been heard many times coming out of their mouths, being a reason for the trial to be stopped on numerous occasions. They cause a stir on purpose, so that the trial cannot be documented as should, especially when it comes to a trial of such an importance for the Greek society as is this one.
“You are more than 30 people, you can’t all speak together, you make it impossible for the secretary to document anything, under those conditions”, Maria Lepenioti, the judge, had to shout at them at one of the many interruptions that they deliberately caused, begging them to comply with her orders. The state prosecutor was forced to use her bell time after time to make them stop defending one another.
On one of the trial days, taking place at Korydallos, a team of German judges came to witness, noting that such a trial is of immense importance. “Golden Dawn is changing Greek society in a negative way. We have Nazi groups in Germany as well and they affect society hugely. We hope something like that doesn’t happen in Greece as well. For sure we hope that. You have a strong democracy”, is what Ursula Barzen, a German judge has to say. The proceeding judge is quite strict and wishes for the procedure to keep going, but the Golden Dawn lawyers, are very aggressive. They shout and provoke both the judge and the witnesses, who are under a big pressure. “In Germany that would never happen. I would never allow it in my courtroom. The court should be very protective of each witness”, she notes, speaking of the conditions of the trial.
Germany, 24th of September, 2017. AfD, a far-right party, manages to get 13% of the votes in the elections and is the third bigger party in the German Parliament, having deputies in it for the first time since WW2. Its far-right, racist and populist agenda is being fed by the refugee crisis, the liberal policies and the austerity of Angela Merkel’s government. AfD’s anti-European Union stand will have a huge impact on Germany’s European policies, especially at times like the ones we experience, where Europe’s financial condition doesn’t seem to be idyllic. About 27 million people in Europe voted for far-right parties. About a month later in Berlin, thousands of Germans are protesting against the populist, islamophobic and anti-humanitarian parties, shouting “Stop Afd, Our hearts beat for diversity” and “We are raising our voices against hatred”. In the meantime, German organization for political rights, are preparing a big protest in Hannover for the 2nd of December. Alexander Gauland, vice-president of AfD, keeps on preaching that Germans should take pride on the achievements of the country’s soldiers during the course of WW1 and WW2, trying to shift the peoples’ opinion about Nazis. On top of that, the leaders of AfD use expressions, such as “ethnic” and “ethno-racial communities”.
Meanwhile, in the Golden Dawn Magazine we read “In our hearts the faith in the Fyrer’s words fades, in a couple of generations I will be given Justice. In our hearts lies the belief in victory. The victory will be ours. A victory that will mean national-socialist cosmogony and the crushing of the poisoner of all peoples, of international Judaism. The struggle is going on, the future belongs to us. “The pure nationalistic and Nazi character of the Golden Dawn is also evidenced by the” Long live the victory “that Mikhalolikos said after his testimony to the ten gathered goldsmiths. This is for the initiates “Sieg Heil”, according to the standards of Germany’s Nazi party.
“The turnout of the people in the trial has been diminished as time passes. We must show that there is a movement against fascism and that there is a social pressure, in the sense that the condemnation of the goldsmiths is considered a one-way street. Society must support the judicial battle, because indifference — as in other events and actions — is a bad image both for the movement and for what we want to achieve, that is, a cluster of the world and a collective action for all sectors “says Lawyer of Education, Eleftheria Tobatzoglou. “The presence of the world can be done in consultation with organizations and organizations, in order to have circularity, as it is understood that it is not easy for every person to be consistent in every trial.”
It is worth noting here that the world can get in on the simple demonstration of a police ID, sit as long as it wants and leave at any moment in the courtroom. “You are no longer afraid of them, as they were afraid of the road. They fall from their pedestal. You understand that there is the will and the way to deal with it “says Maria, 43 years old, a history professor. This trial should not be forgotten. If the criminal prosecution of the Nazi struggle results in the acquittal of its members and leaders, the perpetrators of the assaults and assassinations, then a huge fascist counterattack is expected. However, fascism is condemned in many ways, not only judicially but also socially. Everyone who gives the present to the courthouses and fights against fascism in every facet of it puts a stumbling block on the condemnation of fascism in the modern world. No parliament should be a “scene for racists, discrimination and counterfeiting of history.”
This story was first published at AB International magazine in Greek and German.