Greece’s far-right lead­ers, law­mak­ers set to go on trial

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Lead­ers of Greece’s third largest po­lit­i­cal party, the ex­treme right Golden Dawn, go on trial Mon­day on charges of op­er­at­ing as a crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion that al­legedly car­ried out a cam­paign of vi­o­lence against im­mi­grants and left-wing op­po­nents.

Party leader Nikos Michalo­li­akos and se­nior of­fi­cials are among 69 de­fen­dants in the case closely watched by a coun­try reel­ing from fi­nan­cial hard­ship and po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty.

Founded by Michalo­li­akos as a tiny neo-Nazi or­ga­ni­za­tion in the mid-1980s, Golden Dawn trans­formed from be­ing a mar­ginal far­right group to a popular po­lit­i­cal party dur­ing the fi­nan­cial cri­sis that started in 2009.

It won 6.28 per­cent of the vote in gen­eral elec­tion three months ago, de­spite hav­ing state cam­paign fund­ing axed.

The trial will be held in­side a max­i­mum se­cu­rity pri­son near Athens, where nearby schools and mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices will be closed Mon­day over fears that sev­eral anti-Golden Dawn demon­stra­tions planned in the area could turn vi­o­lent.

Michalo­li­akos, a 57- year- old anti-im­mi­grant fire­brand, and 12 other mem­bers of par­lia­ment each face up to 10 years in pri­son if found guilty. Politi­cians and legal ex­perts are di­vided over whether con­vic­tions could lead to the party be­ing outlawed, with most op­pos­ing a ban.

Although Greek

au­thor­i­ties don’t keep of­fi­cial records on racist vi­o­lence, hu­man rights groups say a surge of at­tacks has oc­curred since 2010, typ­i­cally against dark­skinned im­mi­grants in Athens and fre­quently re­sult­ing in se­ri­ous in­jury. Vic­tims have re­ported that at­tack­ers — typ­i­cally in groups and us­ing brass knuck­les and base­ball bats — have of­ten iden­ti­fied them­selves as Golden Dawn sup­port­ers.

The party de­nies any in­volve­ment in at­tacks, how­ever, claim­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents con­spired against them af­ter Golden Dawn ex­ceeded 10 per­cent in opin­ion polls in 2013.

“They de­cided to put us hand­cuffs ... but in the face of all the mud­sling­ing, Golden Dawn is the third strong­est party in the coun­try whether some peo­ple like it or not,” Michalo­li­akos said af­ter his re­lease from pri­son last month, hav­ing served the max­i­mum 18 months per­mit­ted un­der Greek law in pre-trial detention.

The crack­down was launched against Golden Dawn in 2013 af­ter Greek rap singer Pav­los Fys­sas was stabbed to death, al­legedly by a party vol­un­teer who was ar­rested af­ter the street attack.


This Sept. 28, 2013 file photo shows the leader of the ex­treme far-right Golden Dawn party Nikos Michalo­li­akos, cen­ter, be­ing es­corted by anti-ter­ror po­lice as he ex­its Greek Po­lice head­quar­ters in Athens.

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