A Greek court sentenced the 18 former lawmakers of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party, without accepting any reasons of leniency, including its leader, a day after the three-member panel of judges delivered a landmark verdict deeming the party a criminal organization.
Wednesday’s verdict was the culmination of a five-year, politically charged trial that involved 68 defendants – party officials, members and alleged supporters – more than 200 witnesses and over 60 lawyers. About 20,000 people held an anti-fascist rally outside the courthouse, and thousands more held a similar rally in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Golden Dawn, founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s, rose to prominence during Greece’s brutal near decade-long financial crisis that began in 2009, and become the country’s third largest party. It was often considered a model for many extreme-right groups in Europe and beyond.
Sparked by the 2013 fatal stabbing of left-wing Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, the trial wrapped four cases into one: Fyssas’ killing; physical attacks against Egyptian fishermen in 2012 and on left-wing activists in 2013; and whether Golden Dawn was operating as a criminal organization.
The court ruled that of the 18 former party lawmakers on trial, seven, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were guilty of leading a criminal organization and face between five and 15 years in prison. The other 11 were deemed guilty of participating in a criminal organization, a charge that carries a potential sentence of five to 10 years.
Giorgos Roupakias, accused of being a party supporter who delivered the fatal stab wounds to Fyssas, was found guilty of murder, and possession and use of a weapon, and faces a potential life sentence. Fifteen others – none of them former lawmakers – were convicted as accomplices.
The lengthy sentencing procedure, where defense lawyers make summations laying out reasons for leniency, began immediately after the verdicts were announced Wednesday and went late into the night. The court ordered a recess until Thursday at 12:30 p.m., with the procedure again likely to extend into the night.
The defendants are not required to be present in court for the verdict or sentencing and can be represented by their lawyers. None of the 18 former lawmakers, who had all served the maximum 18 months in pre-trial detention at the start of the trial, was in court Wednesday.
If the judges impose sentences that are not suspended or not delayed pending appeal, then arrest warrants would be issued.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, agreed on Thursday to set a date for the start of exploratory talks between Athens and Ankara, according to diplomatic sources.
The two officials met briefly on the sidelines of the Bratislava Global Security Forum in the Slovakian capital, Greek and Turkish media reported.
Sources in Athens also said that Dendias took the opportunity to express Athens’ opposition to Turkey’s planned opening of the beach at Varosha, the fenced-off southern quarter of the city of Famagusta in Turkish-occupied Cyprus.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will have a video conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today.
Several matters are expeted to be discussed during the meeting, initially intended to be discussed in person, during von der Leyen’s visit to Greece for the “Empress Theofano” prize, that she was to receive on behalf of the Commission on Wednesday evening.
A lockdown is not part of the government’s basic planning for dealing with Covid-19 or among the scenarios being considered, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said in an interview with the “Athens Voice” released on Thursday. “It exists only as an extreme scenario, in the case that, for example, there was suddenly an uncontrollable increase, with thousands of cases in a few days.”
Referring to the large number of daily cases in Attica, he pointed out that it “sounds the alarm to activate the appropriate additional measures, but not to go from one extreme to the other. We cannot simply turn what I’d describe as last-ditch measures on and off, starting and stopping the daily lives of millions of people every so often.
The Golden Dawn’s municipal elections offices were ordered sealed by Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis on Wednesday, following an appeal court’s decision condemning the former parliamentary party as a criminal organization and serving its members, including former MPs, criminal sentences.
The offices of “Elliniki Avgi gia tin Athina” (Greek Dawn for Athens) served as the headquarters of former MP Ilias Kasidiaris, who ran for Athens mayor during the last municipal elections.
Four city employees who were temporarily staffing the offices returned to their regular positions, while a legal notifice was served for the immediate vacation of the premises.
Courier service employees are holding a 24 hour strike today.
And the weather forecast…
Cloudy and rainy in Attica today with the temperature expected to reach a maximum of 25 degrees Celsius.