Athens, Greece – A five-and-a-half year trial against the right-wing extremist Golden Dawn group will end on Wednesday. A three-person jury at the Court of Appeal in Athens is preparing for the decision.
Sixty-eight members of the self-proclaimed fascist unit, including all of its leaders, are on trial for participating in four crimes. The best known case concerns Giorgos Roupakias from Golden Dawn, who confessed to having murdered the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyass or “Killah P”, who stabbed the 34-year-old on September 18, 2013 shortly after midnight in Athens.
Golden Dawn members are also charged with the attempted murder of communist trade unionists and their leader, Sotiris Poulikogiannis, that same month, the attempted murder of the Egyptian immigrant fisherman Abouzid Embarak at his home in June 2012 and the general charge of running a criminal organization.
The atmosphere outside the courthouse is fearful – people are starting to gather to join a rally against the neo-Nazi group until the verdict is reached. There is a complete police barrier with buses in front of the courthouse.
They hope for a guilty verdict and among the crowd is a sign of unity – there are activists, trade unionists and simply concerned citizens.
“I think there is a very big trial against Nazis in Europe,” said 50-year-old Sophia, who was born and raised in Athens.
“I think it’s very important all over the world to show resistance and seek the greatest punishment for all these years. Lots of people are fighting against fascists and racism, so we have to be here to support [them] but also to support immigrants and all people threatened by Nazis and government policies. “
The Greek police deployed around 2,000 additional officers in the capital in anticipation of the rallies on Wednesday.
This file photo, taken on June 25, 2012, shows the Greek musician Pavlos Fyssas [File: Alexandros Theodoridis/AFP]With the largest trial against fascists since Nuremberg coming to an end, much is at stake for Greek and European society.
“It is important to send a message within Greece and also to other countries like Hungry and Poland, which are becoming very authoritarian towards all vulnerable people, especially refugees and migrants,” said Epaminondas Farmakis, founder of Human Rights 360.
“I think the main leader [of Golden Dawn] and those who committed the crimes must be tried and charged today, but it is also important that Golden Dawn is characterized as a criminal organization, “said Farmakis, pointing out that they can claim if the group is found innocent State funds amounting to around 8 million euros from her electoral term, which had been withheld until the verdict, are found.
“A clear decision will also send a message to these other right-wing extremist parties,” he added.
Golden Dawn, known for attacking political and ideological opponents, has also targeted people with immigrant and refugee backgrounds and those who spoke out against them.
Lia Gougou, Greek researcher at Amnesty International, said the outcome of the trial must condemn the hatred and violence that Golden Dawn has sown in the country for years.
“We hope that today’s verdict in this landmark case will provide victims, survivors and their families with effective access to justice and redress and address the threat posed by a group that has used and advocated violence and discrimination,” she said. “It has to send a clear and unambiguous message that hate crimes will no longer be tolerated.”
Although much has been done about the fall of the Golden Dawn, observers fear that a guilty verdict does not necessarily mean that the ideology of the group that conquered significant sections of Greek society would completely disappear.
Thanasis Kampagia, an attorney in Athens who represents the Egyptian fishermen in the Golden Dawn trial, said in an editorial last month: “Nothing less than conviction on all issues and detaining the accused will be enough.”
Farmakis said he was “optimistic” that Golden Dawn would be found guilty of acting as a criminal organization, but warned, “Many of my colleagues are not.”