This article originally appeared on VICE Greece
Today, Friday the 18th of September, marks the second anniversary of the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn member George Roupakias. The killing was the catalyst that led to the arrest of many of the extreme right organisation's members. Along with Fyssas' murder case, several other charges were also mounted against the organisation.
Subsequently various members of the parliamentary group, which was voted in in 2012, were jailed and set to face trial in a process that should have began in April. However, thanks to endless bureaucratic delays a witness is yet to be called.
Until recently, the official line of GD leader Nikos Michaloliakos – who stands accused of directing a criminal organisation – was that his party had nothing to do with the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. In 2013, Michaloliakos claimed that George Roupakias wasn't even a member of Golden Dawn and that he had no involvement in the murder.
On Thursday the 17th of September, just a few days before Greeks are called to the polls for a third time in one year and with Golden Dawn polling as the third most popular party, Nikos Michaloliakos accepted political responsibility for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas on live radio.
"With regards to political responsibility for the murder Fyssas in Keratsini, we accept it," he said during the interview. "As for criminal liability, there isn't any. Is it right to condemn a whole party because one of its followers carried out a condemnable act?"
Essentially, that was the first time Nikos Michaloliakos admitted that there was a connection between the murder of Pavlos Fyssas and Golden Dawn – something that everybody knew but the party itself refused to accept. After these developments, I wonder who will vote for them on this Sunday's parliamentary elections; Why did Michaliolakis "confess"? What does Golden Dawn's acceptance of political responsibility mean? Why do this a few days before the election? And, most importantly, will people continue to vote for a party that has claimed political responsibility for a murder just because it sells itself as anti-austerity and antisystemic? According to analysts, they will.
I got in touch Dimitris Psaras, journalist and author of the book The Black Book of Golden Dawn: Documents on the History and Activity of a Nazi Group to ask what conclusions he drew from Nikos Michaloliakos's confessions.
"With the admittance of 'political responsibility', Michaloliakos is reassuring his hardcore followers that he hasn't abandoned them and isn't going to throw them under the bus just to save himself. He wants to dispel this image of a captain leaving the ship, an image that he's been tarred with in recent months. With this particular statement he has acknowledged what he has so stubbornly denied for two years. He now fully vindicates the united leadership of the organisation," said Psaras.
I asked if he thinks there are still voters who were unaware of the real face of GD: "There haven't been any unsuspecting Golden Dawn votes since the autumn of 2013, when the press dealt extensively with the criminal activity of the organisation," he responded. "I don't expect an immediate shift in voters. But this declaration of 'political responsibility' will have long-term consequences, both in terms of the judicial investigation of Golden Dawn and the political support behind their nazi project," Psaras concluded.
I then contacted Associate Philosophy Professor of Law and Theory of Institutions at the University Athens Aristides Hatzis to ask if he expects Golden Dawn to lose votes because of Michaloliakos' recent comments.
"I don't see how it will affect Golden Dawn's voters, because I don't think they have any doubt about what the party is. This isn't 2012, when they first entered the Greek parliament. Everyone knows that they are a neo-Nazi party, we all very aware of their views and what they have done," he replied. "I don't think it will cost them much in political capital – it looks like they will be emerging even stronger in the upcoming elections. They're playing the card of being the only genuine anti-memorandum and anti-establishment party, as well as taking advantage of the situation with refugees and immigrants. There are no unsuspecting Golden Dawn supporters now. Nobody has an excuse."
As expected, Michaloliakos's troublesome interview forced Golden Dawn to issue a clarifying statement: "In terms of political responsibility for the murder in Keratsini, we accept it. But no criminal liability exists! (...) Is it possible for an entire party to be accused for the act of a follower?" wrote a press release.
The question that remains however is how the "confession" will affect future court proceedings for the political party? Takis Zotos, Thanassis Kampagiannis and Kostas Papadakis Kostas are lawyers who work with the "Jail Golden Dawn" movement. They maintained that "the neo-Nazis' might be making a desperate attempt to convince the public they've changed, but their Führer, Nikos Michaloliakos, just openly accepted political responsibility for organising Pavlos Fyssas's murder. With this, Michaloliakos has accepted the charge of leading a criminal organisation."
When asked whether there should be any new charges brought about after Michaloliakos's statement, Takis Zotos explained: "They are already charged with being a criminal organisation. The difference is that, now, Michaloliakos accepts the charge. This will not benefit them at the polling booths. Ordinary people should be able to see them for what they are."
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