The leaders of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn were sentenced to 13 years in jail today, after a landmark trial in which the movement, once the country’s third largest political party, was found to be a criminal organisation.
Six former MPs, including Golden Dawn's 62-year-old leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were handed 13-year jail terms for running the criminal organisation, which was linked to hate crimes including the murder of an antifascist musician, and brutal attacks on Egyptian fishermen.
The sentences, close to the maximum 15 years possible under Greece’s penal code, effectively spell the end for the violent fascist group that for years held 18 seats in the country’s parliament.
The court also handed down a life sentence to Golden Dawn member Giorgos Roupakias for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-racist rapper known as “Killah P,” alongside a sentence of ten years in jail for belonging to a criminal group.
Fyssas’s killing in 2013 triggered the criminal inquiry into the party that eventually led to its unravelling, even as Michaloliakos, a Holocaust denier who was found with Nazi paraphernalia in his home, protested that the investigation amounted to political persecution.
Fifty-seven of 68 Golden Dawn figures were finally found guilty last week of crimes including murder, assault, weapons possession and running or participating in a criminal gang, at the conclusion of a landmark trial that ran for more than five years. Last week’s verdicts triggered celebrations by huge crowds outside the Athens court, who had gathered to witness the downfall of a toxic player in Greek politics.
“The verdict and sentences handed down by the Athens court … send the clear message that these hateful ideas, and the violence that Golden Dawn spawned, are not welcome in Greek society anymore,” Eva Cossé, Human Rights Watch’s Greece researcher, told VICE News.
“It’s an important day for victims, their families, and Greece as a whole. [It] can hopefully have a long-term impact in the fight against racism and intolerance in Europe.”
However while the trial has destroyed Golden Dawn as a political vehicle for the far-right, observers warn its ultranationalist ideology lives on in other groups.
Greek Solution, a nationalist party that wants an electric fence erected on the border with Turkey, and currently has ten seats in the national parliament and one in the European Parliament, is one of more than a dozen groups that a leaked police report claimed were aiming to take up the political real estate left by Golden Dawn’s demise.