Greek court rules neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is criminal organization
A Greek court ruled on Wednesday that the nation’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is a criminal organization and convicted several of its members of murder and other crimes.
Judges handed out convictions to members of the fringe group that eventually became the third-largest political party in Greece as the country’s economy struggled, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The rulings, which thousands of demonstrators praised in the streets, will likely speed up the decline of the right-wing party.
The court sentenced 68 party members, including all of Golden Dawn’s leaders, for crimes including murder, attempted murder, violent assault and possession of illegal weapons.
Kostis Papaioannou, a former senior official for human rights at the Ministry of Justice, told the Journal that the trial was “the most politically important trial in modern Greek history.”
“Golden Dawn has been, for many of its sympathizers, among the most successful examples of how a radical, violent group can infiltrate the political mainstream,” he said, noting authorities were “very slow” to respond to the group.
The movement, originally known for attacks on immigrants and leftists, rose in popularity as Greece faced a depression starting in 2010 that brought the unemployment rate to 27 percent. Amid the economic disaster, the Golden Dawn party gained traction, earning Parliament seats after receiving 7 percent of the vote in the 2012 election.
The country started investigating Golden Dawn after several violent incidents in 2013, including the killing of antifascist rap artist Pavlos Fyssas. Several members were convicted of murdering Fyssas on Wednesday, according to the Journal.
The party’s leader Nikos Michaloliakos, a Holocaust denier, and several other Parliament members were indicted in the investigation, but the party still ranked third as the strongest political party in the 2015 elections. Michaloliakos and others have claimed they were being politically persecuted.
The Golden Dawn party’s popularity has shrunk in recent years as Greece’s economic situation improved, and in 2019, it did not receive the 3 percent threshold vote to earn seats in Parliament.
The party had denied being connected to neo-Nazism, but photos and videos displayed during the trial showed leaders giving the Nazi salute and wearing Nazi paraphernalia and tattoos, according to the Journal.