Nazis lose in Greece; Golden Dawn declared criminal organization
This Sept. 28, 2013, file photo shows leader of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party Nikos Michaloliakos, center, after his arrest by anti-terror police. The party has now been declared a criminal organization. | Angeliki Panagiotou / AP

At the time Morning Star went to press, the verdict in this case had not yet been delivered. This article is updated with an Associated Press report on the verdict.

At least 20,000 people gathered outside the central court in Athens on Wednesday to hear the long-awaited verdicts in the trial of Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Cheers went up when a guilty verdict was announced and the party was declared a criminal organization. Eighteen former lawmakers, including leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were among those declared criminals.

It was the biggest trial of Nazi criminality since Nuremberg and later processes following the second world war. It ranks in Greek history alongside the hearings after the fall of the junta in 1974 of top officers responsible for the military coup of 1967.

Anti-fascist protesters from the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) applaud as they celebrate following the announcement of the court verdict, outside the courthouse in Athens, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. | Yorgos Karahalis / AP

Much rests upon the outcome, not only for Greece but also for the anti-fascist movement on both sides of the Atlantic. With the 68 defendants, who include the entire leadership of now former MPs, convicted, the verdict is a blow to all those on the far right who took inspiration from Golden Dawn’s neo-Nazi strategy.

For four years in austerity-ravaged Greece, the party successfully combined major electoral advance with terrorizing neighborhoods, immigrants, and the labor movement with its “battalion squads” of armed gangs.

It is not merely a right-wing nationalist party. It is a neo-Nazi organization. “We are the seeds of the defeated army of 1945,” its Michaloliakos told a private party meeting—that is, of the defeated army of Hitler’s Third Reich.

And that is but a grain of the mountain of evidence the court has received over the last five-and-a-half years.

Indeed, one reason the process has taken so long is the volume of documents and testimony against the accused. The other is that the defense strategy has been delay and disruption. It is now the end of that road.

There was no doubt about the verdicts on charges of murder, attempted murder, other felonies, and membership and direction of a criminal organization. It is a criminal trial, not a trial of ideas. It is brought under the same law whereby mafia bosses are prosecuted for directing the work of underlings.

Three instances of that “work” were part of this trial: the murder of anti-racist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, and the attempted murders of Egyptian fisherman Abouzid Embarak and of communist trade union leader Sotiris Poulikogiannis. Giorgos Roupakias, the murderer of Fyssas, was among the guilty.

The choice of victims is revealing—and the court heard about many others in already decided cases. A radical cultural figure; an immigrant worker; and a union leader in the shipyards of Piraeus.

While criminal actions, not ideas, were at the heart of this trial, the lawyers representing the victims demonstrated that the Nazi ideology and organization at the core of Golden Dawn explain the choice of targets, the intention, and overall motivation linking scores of crimes.

That there was any uncertainty about the verdict was not due to the strength of Golden Dawn’s legal defense. Its 50 lawyers had to cut their witness list from 240 to 70 as one after another incriminated others or infuriated the judges.

It came down to the intervention of the state prosecutor. Their role in the Greek system is not to represent the victims but the interests of the state in the court. The prosecutor’s proposal in this case brought national outcry. She said the court should dismiss the charge of criminal organization, that crimes were committed by discrete individuals—nothing to do with Golden Dawn, and that only the thug who stabbed Fyssas should be convicted—not even those who held the victim down.

Last weekend official politics finally reflected public indignation. All the parliamentary leaders issued statements urging conviction.

Communist Party leader Dimitris Koutsoumpas spoke for the radical left as a whole, who have isolated Golden Dawn through mass anti-fascist activity—local, party and initiatives such as the KEERFA (Movement United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat) coalition.

Magda Fyssas, the mother of late Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party in 2013 triggering a crackdown on the party, celebrates immediately after the delivery of the verdict of a court decision in Athens, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. | Petros Giannakouris / AP

But also opposing the neo-Nazis was former prime minister Antonis Samaras, whose hard-right government paved the way for Golden Dawn’s rise eight years ago and was engaged in back channel collaboration with it.

What to make of such hypocrisy and last-minute conversion? Anti-fascist lawyer Thanasis Kampagiannis explained: “We built this democratic wall: the unions, neighborhood collectives, immigrant organizations, the left … And we know who in official politics is the first to abandon the battlements or open the rear gate to the enemy. But we built the democratic wall. And it is we who shall defend it.”

That is a message that resonates everywhere as the Greek state and its judiciary decided in Athens today.

After the verdicts, defense lawyers began summations ahead of sentencing, a process that could last several days. Those convicted of leading a criminal organization face up to 15 years in prison, while the others face up to 10 years. Roupakias faces a life sentence.

The crowd at the anti-fascist rally waved banners with slogans including “Fyssas lives, crush the Nazis,” and chanted, “The people demand the Nazis in jail.” More than 5,000 people held a similar rally in the northern city of Thessaloniki.


Kevin Ovenden
Kevin Ovenden

Kevin Ovenden is a longstanding socialist activist and writer in Britain who has closely followed politics, society, and culture for over twenty-five years. He is a national officer of both the UK's Stop the War Coalition and of Unite Against Fascism, the British anti-fascist group. He led five blockade-busting aid convoys to Gaza and is a supporter of the right to return to Palestine.