Greece: Trial of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party postponed until May
Agence France-Presse reports that the trial of 69 members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn was postponed until 7 May two hours after it began today. The postponement was for procedural reasons, as one of the defendants did not have a lawyer.
The trial began in a specially designed courtroom in a high security prison in the suburbs of Athens. Most of the defendants, including party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, did not attend the opening.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for criminal conspiracy. The trial is expected to last several months.
The party says it is innocent and considers the charges politically motivated because its popularity with voters has been increasing. Very tight security measures were in place today near Korydallos prison.
Schools located in the immediate vicinity of the prison were closed, for example. "The town is like a fortress now... The trial should not be held here," local mayor Stavros Kasitmatis told the Associated Press.
Through this trial, the Greek justice system is bringing to an end its heretofore unseen investigation of a political party seated in Parliament, which began in the context of the murder of the left-wing activist and popular singer Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013. The murder was the culmination of several years of ongoing violent activities targeting gays, immigrants and left-wingers, among others.
The Greek authorities were also disturbed by the growing support that Golden Dawn began to enjoy among the rank and file of the Army and Police. Minor purges were therefore also carried out in the security forces.
Among those charged are many current and former MPs of the party, which ended in third place in last May's elections to the European Parliament. The party has ranked as the third-strongest political force in the country during the past three elections to the Greek Parliament.
Those defendants who are still in custody commute to the lower house to cast their votes in handcuffs. Several leading figures including neo-Nazi leader Michaloliakos, however, are under house arrest because they have already spent 18 months in custody, the longest amount legally possible while awaiting trial.
Golden Dawn has enjoyed the support of some conservative Orthodox clergy and first made it into the Greek Parliament in 2012, where it has maintained practically the same strength ever since, including in the most recent elections in January. The party does not mine Greek resistance to austerity as much as it does resistance to immigrants and the desire of some voters for a strong-arm government.
Support for the movement remains consistent despite its admirers and members being prosecuted. Fyssas's murderer is also awaiting trial in custody.
Last April a Greek court sentenced a 23-year-old admirer of local neo-Nazis to 10 years in prison for stabbing a high school student with whom he was arguing over politics. On the other hand, a Golden Dawn MP who physically assaulted two female left-wing politicians on live television in 2012 has been acquitted.
The judge ruled that Ilias Kasidiaris, who was working as the party press spokesperson at the time, did not cause grievous bodily harm to the women as the indictment alleged. After the murder of Fyssas, the Greek Parliament voted to strip Golden Dawn MPs of their immunity from prosecution.
Police have evidence that the party has actively incited violence. Fyssas's murderer was a Golden Dawn volunteer.
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