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  • Golden Dawn Trial: A Democratic, Antifascist Society Holds its Breath

  • By Danai Koltsida | 06 Oct 20 | Posted under: Greece , Rightist Movements
  • Tomorrow, 7 October, thousands of people will gather outside the courtroom of the Athens Criminal Court of Appeal to learn the court’s verdict in the trial against 69 members of the neo-Nazi organisation Golden Dawn, including its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, and many of its former MPs.

    ‘They are not innocent’, ‘The Nazis in prison’, and many more slogans like these are currently dominating Greek social media and public discourse as antifascists and democratsdemandthe conviction of all the defendants. The left and all the progressive forces are not only openly asking for the conviction of the defendants for all the felonies they are accused of, but also have taken various initiatives: public events, campaigns, and of course a public call for a rally on the day of the announcement of the court verdict. 

    Live Update: Wednesday, 7.10.2020,
    starting at 11:00 EET / 10:00 CET / 09:00 WET
    by Golden Dawn Watch via Twitter
    GoldenDawnWatch_EN (English)

    GoldenDawnWatch (Greek)

    #JailGoldenDawn / #DenEinaiAthooi
                                                                               

    The legal frame and the case

    The verdict comes after five and a half years of trial and 453 days in court – which, by itself, constitutes a major achievement. Throughout the course of the procedure, the lawyers and the families of the victims – supported by a wide antifascist movement – had to overcome countless obstacles endure provocations by the defendants, and present endless pieces of evidence and testimony in court in order to substantiate the accusations, which are mainly the following[1]:

    (a) the establishment of and participation in a criminal enterprise,
    (b) the murder of the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013,
    (c) the assault on trade-unionists of PAME (All-Workers Militant Front, organisation of the Greek Communist Party) in 2013 and the attempted murder of its leader Sotiris Poulikogiannis,
    (d) the attack against a group of Egyptian fishermen and the attempted murder of Abuzid Embarak.

    So far, despite the overwhelming evidence provided by the plaintiffs on how Golden Dawn operated under order of its leadership, the prosecutor asked the court to find the defendants not guilty for the crime of establishing and participating in a criminal enterprise, which in practise means that all the criminal activity of Golden Dawn militias will be treated as isolated incidents. In such a case, Golden Dawn leadership would be exonerated and the rest of the defendants let off with minor sentences.

    The political and social environment

    A huge wave of protest and public calls arose during the past several days and weeks whose demand was the conviction of the defendants for the felonies with which they are charged. Many organisations, political parties, NGOs and other civil society organisations and initiatives, politicians, academics, intellectuals,[2] artists, and others have joined this effort.[3] Even right-wing politicians, including the current PM, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but also the former PM and a well known ultra-conservative, Antonis Samaras, have published statements condemning Golden Dawn and stressing that it is not and has never been a ‘legitimate’ or ‘normal’ political party – disregarding, of course, their own major responsibility for the rise of the far-right in Greece altogether or the fact that even now they continue interpreting neo-Nazi violence as a result of ‘populism’ in general, in order to blame it on the left and on Syriza.[4]

    On the other hand, there have been scandals such as the employment of Eleni Zaroulia – former Golden Dawn MP, supporter of the defendants in the courtroom and spouse of Golden Dawn’s leader – as parliamentary staff by the Speaker of the Parliament Konstantinos Tasoulas (New Democracy) only a few days ago. Moreover, the fact that the majority of the mainstream media is ignoring or downplaying the importance of the trial is alarming and raises the question of whether there is truly a unanimous confrontation with fascism.

    The significance of a strong inculpatory verdict and ‘the day after’

    The criminal action of this organisation targeting migrants, trade-unionists, antifascists or anyone they see as ‘different’, ‘alien’ or ‘the enemy’ is well known and sufficiently established. However, the judicial outcome of this case will have major political implications:[5]

    First of all, a suitably harsh verdict would – at least partly – repair the heavily damaged trust the Greek people, especially the youth, have in the judicial system. Since Golden Dawn targets only those who are considered ‘weak’ and unable to effectively defend themselves, the court has the opportunity to prove that the rule of law, the principle of equality before the law, truly applies in Greece, that everyone’s life and security is equally protected and that everyone can receive justice in Greek courts.

    Second, a strong inculpating verdict would prove that Golden Dawn is not a political party, persecuted for its ideology – as the Nazis claim. It would establish for everyone that fascism is not an ideology and that it leads by default to violence and crimes, since its main component is hatred. Of course, much more is needed than a court ruling in order to eliminate fascism from social and political life, but a conviction would certainly send a loud and clear message.

    Third, a strong verdict would force all politicians, journalists, and so forth to keep a clear distance from the neo-Nazis. For many years now Golden Dawn has been presented by many of them as a ‘normal’ party, with statements such as ‘I don’t see why a “serious” Golden Dawn couldn’t participate in a government’ or ‘Golden Dawn members treat me with great respect and kindness’, with interviews and life-style stories on the leadership of Golden Dawn, etc. This has been disastrous and was clearly an electoral strategy; its effect was to normalise and legitimise Golden Dawn in the conscience of the Greeks. The fact that, hopefully, from Wednesday on we will be referring to condemned felons will force all political forces and the media to keep their distance, thus restoring a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the neo-Nazis, preventing them from re-entering public life as easily as would otherwise be the case.

    Whether the court reaches a condemning verdict, as we all hope, or it exonerates some of the defendants, there will be much to be done on ‘the day after’ by the antifascist, democratic forces in Greece, since neo-fascism cannot be eliminating uprooted by a court verdict. Racist and nationalist ideas are far from defeated in Greek society. On the contrary, as the health and economic crisis continues to worsen, mainstream rhetoric, as expressed by many media, but also by the right-wing government, is searching for scapegoats once more, targeting immigrants and refugees, the youth that is currently protesting for better health measures in schools, and others. We will, however, hopefully be fighting the far-right in all its various forms from a better position if the court verdict condemns then on 7 October and the neo-Nazis end up where they belong: behind bars.

     


    Notes

    [1] See a detailed presentation of the case in Kampagiannis Thanasis, ‘Awaiting a Verdict in the Golden Dawn Trial’, Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, online at: https://www.rosalux.de/en/news/id/43052/awaiting-a-verdict-in-the-golden-dawn-trial

    [2] Étienne Balibar wrote an article for the Greek newspaper Epohi, declaring that the verdict will define the resilience of the rule of law in Greece.

    [3] Nicos Poulantzas Institute, the foundation affiliated to Syriza and member of transform! europe, has launched an online campaign with antifascist material, statements of participants in the trial, videos with analyses of the neo-Nazi phenomenon, and more. See more: https://poulantzas.gr/yliko/diadiktyaki-kabania-den_einai_athooi/ (in Greek).

    [4] The Greek newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton published statements by Prime Minister Mitsotakis (New Democracy), former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (New Democracy), former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Syriza), MP Fofi Gennimata (Kinima Allagis/PASOK), General Secretary of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) MP Dimitris Koutsoumpas, and Yanis Varoufakis (DiEM25).

    [5] In Greek law, there is no provision for banishing a political party. So criminal ondemnation will have no further legal implications.


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