[The Golden Dawn trial has been postponed until 7 May after party member
Over 70 members of Golden Dawn, Greece’s notorious fascist party, go on trial today. The prosecutors accuse the group of being a criminal organisation which has ordered assassinations, orchestrated pogroms and plotted to overthrow the Greek state. The accused include 16 former and current members of parliament, party members and even police officers. Many accuse the group of having infiltrated the police force, the army and even the intelligence service. Consider also alleged connections to the political establishment, the judiciary and wealthy shipping magnates, and you have a recipe which makes the best Hollywood courtroom thrillers look boring.
The Greek justice system has so far failed miserably to bring substantial convictions against the party despite a wealth of evidence. This time Golden Dawn has brought in an army of 100 lawyers and will probably use intimidation of jury members, judges and witnesses – as they’ve done before – to get the result they want. The key to the prosecution’s case will be proving orders came directly from the party leadership. If they don’t succeed the foot soldiers will take the fall while the leadership goes free: a result which will see Golden Dawn come back stronger and bolder than ever before. Here’s a run-down of some of the key players.
Party leader and founder of Golden Dawn, according to prosecutors Michaloliakos is the absolute authority in the party. Michaloliakos formed Golden Dawn as a newspaper of neo-Nazi propaganda in the 1980s, eventually morphing it into a political party in the 90s. He was arrested along with the rest of the leadership following the murder of antifascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member in September 2013. Michaloliakos’s colourful history includes being mentored in prison by Greek dictator, Nazi collaborator and CIA asset General Yiorgos Papadopoulos.
An MP for the party, Pappas is also considered to be the party’s main ideologue after the discovery of documents at his house detailing the party’s structure. The documents present a strict hierarchy with a pyramid structure extending from the party leader through various ‘chapters’ down to individual groups. Roles and ranks are intricately detailed including tasks and responsibilities. Ranks include ‘officers’ and ‘knights’, leading to the belief that the structure is based upon the medieval order of the Teutonic Knights. What’s more, each page is marked with the initials of the SS and the document contains a diatribe against Jews as ‘parasites’ and heavily praises National Socialism. These documents will prove as useful evidence for the prosecution’s argument that all orders came from the top of the party.
Ilias Kasidiaris is the public face of the organisation, one of the most recognised members as a result of his position as party spokesman, bad-boy image, and often violent behaviour. Whilst being Golden Dawn MP for Attica, Kasidiaris is most known for his assault on a female MP live on television. After a disagreement with the MP on a televised debate Kasidiaris threw a glass of water at one female MP and then punched another. Despite the incident being captured live and widely viewed on YouTube Kasidiaris was acquitted of the charges brought against him by an Athenian court last month. He was also acquitted in 2013 of involvement in the beating and stabbing of a student. Witnesses to the assault identified him as being one of the assailants and the getaway vehicle used as belonging to the MP yet he was acquitted for lack of evidence.
Nikos Kouzilos – MP for central Piraeus – is the focus of the allegations surrounding Golden Dawn’s links to the secret service, EYP. It’s his relative Dimos Kouzilos who raises questions and, according to lawyers involved in the prosecution, should also be investigated. Dimos Kouzilos was head of EYP’s third counter-intelligence division and in charge of telephone surveillance of Golden Dawn up until September 2013. Lawyers point out that EYP had knowledge of the illegal activities of Golden Dawn members as far back as 2011 but failed to act on the information. When the government eventually moved to arrest Golden Dawn, Kouzilos was forced to resign because of a perceived closeness to the party.
Yiorgos Roupakias is a minor player in Golden Dawn, a foot soldier, and low on the party’s hierarchy. But his case is significant as Roupakias has admitted to the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, whose death caused international outrage and forced the government to act. Roupakias’s conviction is mostly assured but prosecutors hope to argue that his claim to have acted in self-defence is false, and that the he was ordered to kill Fyssas by senior party members. Police investigations show Roupakias spoke by phone to senior Golden Dawn members, including Michaloliakos and Kasidiaris, immediately before and after the killing of Fyssas.
The best of the rest…
Other senior MPs for the party have been accused of orchestrating and leading assault squads to attack leftists or migrants. Nikos Michos and Ioannis Lagos were accused of leading a motorcycle squadron of 100 men dressed in Golden Dawn clothing to attack a social centre in Athens which at the time was providing English lessons to children. The centre was destroyed and one person badly beaten.
Ilias Panagiotaros, another MP, was at the head of a gang which blockaded the gates of a theatre and hurled rocks and insults at the cast inside. Panagiotaros himself was filmed shouting racist and homophobic abuse.
Kostas Barbarousis was filmed leading a gang which attacked migrant market vendors. In the video Barbarousis walks at the head of 20 men down a narrow market street. The men systematically attack and destroy the stalls of migrants. Despite the video, Barbarousis and ten other men were acquitted of any involvement in such an incident by a Greek court.