Because killing innocents seems like a weird way to get people to like you.
Golden Dawn supporters at a rally. Photo via.
Greece has had its fair share of far-right nationalists over the past few decades. Operating under slightly more marketable monikers, like "patriots" or "anti-communists", they've committed some thuggish crimes – such as smashing left-wing figurehead Grigoris Lambrakis to death with a club in 1963 – but none of them can really compete in the arsehole stakes with today's spiteful extremists: Golden Dawn.
If, for whatever reason, you haven't heard of Golden Dawn, they are the Greek neo-fascist party whose leader, Michaloliakos, spent some time in jail in 1979 for illegally carrying guns and explosives and being connected to a group that carried out the bombing of two cinemas in Athens. More recently, supporters of the party have been linked with murdering immigrants in the streets of Athens, casual violence against both immigrants and anarchists and have, on more than one occasion, been arrested for carrying guns and explosives.
But it’s the case of the Sparta bomber that is the most worrying yet. On the 31st of August last year, a bomb blew up in the hands of a 38-year-old man in Sparta. His target remains unknown. The bomber's accomplice, an as yet unidentified 34-year-old man, was arrested but released after testifying, despite the fact that 60 more bombs, shotguns and masks were found in his house by the police. Since then, no more information has been released and the Greek media have buried the story.
Reports from Sparta identify both the dead man and his accomplice as members of the local Golden Dawn charter, suggesting Greece's far-right are turning to terrorism to get their message across. In order to understand the very real possibility of further political terrorism in Greece, I spoke to Dimitris Psarras, a Greek investigative journalist whose book The Black Bible of the Golden Dawn is one of the most thorough investigations of the party.
VICE: The case of the Sparta bomber hasn't progressed at all and it seems like it's been buried by the mainstream media. How much do you know about it?
Dimitris Psarras: I know nothing more than that. It's a very strange case and we’ve been trying to pressure some answers out of the whole thing, but nothing has come out of it yet.
Why is it stuck?
It’s the legal process pre-court. The authorities have no obligation to release any details to the press pre-trial, but in this case they've been very secretive. Also, the handling of the case bears no resemblance to other terrorism cases, where we’ve had names and pictures from the first second. In this case, we’ve seen nothing of the sort.
Do you think Greece is starting to see a “strategy of tension” enacted? Golden Dawn trying to manipulate the public with fear?
I believe it’s already happening. The Golden Dawn’s strategy today is exactly that. Ilias Panagiotaros, one of Golden Dawn's MPs, actually said, “There is already civil war,” in an interview. They want to force the other side's hand into committing similar violent acts, just like during the strategy of tension in Italy in the 70s.
So what you’re saying is not that it might happen, but that it's definitely already happening?
Definitely. Maybe not with the same intensity as Italy's blind bombings in the 70s, but let's not forget that Golden Dawn and Michaloliakos' heritages both involve the Italians. Even recently, actually, the Golden Dawn magazine Meandric – which they circulate internally in the organisation – ran a piece on Pino Rauti, one of the leaders of the neo-fascist Ordine Nuovo, the far-right group directly involved with the bombings in Italy in the 70s.
Do you think Golden Dawn might try other tactics as well, like carrying out hits that make it look like anarchists are responsible, for example?
I can only hypothesise. Taking the fact they've never cut their ties with the idea of a "deep state" [an alleged clandestine group of military officials and civilians who frame their opponents for the murders of dissidents they commit themselves] into account, I wouldn't rule it out. But that would be a worst case scenario.
Weapons and Golden Dawn paraphernalia found in the homes of two bombing suspects.
A couple of days after I spoke to Psarras, a story from the Greek city of Volos made the headlines. During the Cypriot "bailout" negotiations, a Cyprus Bank building was firebombed, police went after two suspects and – surprise, surprise – found guns, knives, bats and Golden Dawn paraphernalia in their homes.
Shockingly, Golden Dawn claim they know nothing about these guys, just as they supposedly don't know anything about the Sparta bomber or his accomplice. But it's only going to get harder for them to hide behind this veil of camera-friendly democracy while more potential violence looms imminently in the background.
Follow Yiannis on Twitter: @YiannisBab
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