Court docket Sentences Leaders of Greece’s Golden Daybreak to Jail
ATHENS – An Athens court sentenced the leadership of the Greek Golden Dawn party to 13 years in prison on Wednesday, a week after declaring the neo-fascist party a criminal organization in a landmark ruling that concluded one of the country’s most important political processes, The morderne Story.
Last week, the court convicted the party leaders of crimes related to a campaign of attacks against migrants and left-wing critics in 2012 and 2013. At the end of more than five years of trial, the party was bound by a number of attacks. including the fatal knife stab of a left rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, in 2013.
Giorgos Roupakias, a party member convicted of the murder of Mr Fyssas, received the hardest sentence, life plus 10 years. The court could still suspend some of the judgments.
The convictions were widely viewed in Greece as the final blow to Golden Dawn, which did not return to parliament in last year’s general election as the process gradually eroded its popularity. And the result has already triggered political upheaval.
“The verdict sent a very clear message: we need to protect ourselves from nationalism and racism,” said Seraphim Seferiades, Associate Professor of Politics and History at Panteion University in Athens. But “the far right is not dead because of a court decision,” he said. “The danger will always be there if the underlying issues are not addressed.”
In total, the court sentenced 50 people for membership in a criminal organization – 18 of whom were former Golden Dawn politicians, including its leader Nikos Michaloliakos.
Mr Roupakias and five other supporters or members of the party were found guilty of attempted murders of three Egyptian fishermen in 2012. Four others were convicted of assault in attacking members of the Greek Communist Party union in 2013.
Prior to the rulings, defense attorneys had urged the court to take mitigating circumstances into account, citing good character, lawful behavior and, in some cases, their clients’ marriages to foreign women.
The party’s leadership was arrested in September 2013, days after Mr Fyssas was assassinated – the first time a Greek political party leader and MPs have been arrested since the country’s military dictatorship was overthrown in 1974.
Some of them have already served the legal maximum of 18 months in pre-trial detention and then were released – time to be deducted from their sentences.
The fall of Golden Dawn was as spectacular as its rise. At the height of the country’s financial crisis in 2012-2013, it was catapulted out of obscurity into the front lines of Greek politics by tapping public discontent over austerity measures and a growing influx of migrants.
Mr Seferiades said a failure by successive governments to mitigate the effects of years of austerity and the fact that the European Union had found a humane solution to the migration problem had helped “normalize racist discourse”.
“Everyone knew about Golden Dawn since the 1980s, but there has been no political response,” he said, adding that the 2013 move was in response to a public outcry over the death of Mr. Fyssas, the rapper. The government “eventually responded because it ran the risk of social uprising that it could not have managed.”
Despite the dramatic decline of the Golden Dawn, neo-Nazism has not gone away in Greece. Former MPs, including Ilias Kasidiaris, former Golden Dawn spokesman, have formed parties that hold similar views.
Less far-right parties have also emerged, including the nationalist Greek solution.
In a post on Twitter last week, the party leader, Mr Michaloliakos, said that the Greeks will remember the Golden Dawn, “when illegal immigrants are the majority in Greece, when they allow Turkey land and water, when millions of Greeks are unemployed on the streets are . ”
He referred to the arrival of migrants from Turkey and a recent political crisis between the two neighbors over longstanding territorial disagreements and related energy rights.
Mr. Michaloliakos insisted that the party was a victim of a witch hunt.
In the immediate political fallout of the convictions, former Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis resigned from the central political committee of the main left-wing opposition party Syriza last week and was subsequently expelled from the party. In addition to fighting within the party, he cited concerns that a criminal code introduced last year by the previous left-wing government could lead to lighter sentences for Golden Dawn.
Among other things, the code would treat the leader of a criminal organization the same as any other member, he said.
The ruling Conservative New Democracy Party replied that Mr Kontonis’ comments “exposed the apparent cynicism and deep hypocrisy of Mr Tsipras” and referred to Syriza’s leader, former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
“He stood before the appeals court demanding the conviction of the Golden Dawn officials,” the party said, “when he was prime minister to ensure a” gentler fall “for them.”