Greek court orders jail for neo-Nazi leaders

·3-min read
Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos was defiant after the ruling

Greek court orders jail for neo-Nazi leaders

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos was defiant after the ruling

A Greek court on Thursday ordered neo-Nazi Golden Dawn chief Nikos Michaloliakos and his former top aides to begin immediately serving prison sentences, capping one of the most significant trials in the country's political history.

Following the ruling, warrants are to be issued for the immediate arrest of Michaloliakos and several former party lawmakers, the court said.

Several of those convicted including Michaloliakos and a number of former Golden Dawn lawmakers have already turned themselves in, state television ERT said.

Michaloliakos, who founded Golden Dawn in the early 1980s, and other former members of his inner circle were sentenced two weeks ago to more than 13 years in prison for running a criminal organisation after a five-year trial.

The probe was sparked by the 2013 murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was ambushed by Golden Dawn members and fatally stabbed.

Fyssas' murderer, former truck driver Yiorgos Roupakias, has been handed a life sentence.

Fyssas' mother Magda on Thursday collapsed in tears when the ruling was read out.

"I wish Pavlos were alive, even as one of the maimed left behind by Golden Dawn. At least they are alive," she later told reporters.

Michaloliakos, a longterm Hitler admirer and Holocaust denier, has rejected his party's prosecution as a political witch hunt. 

- 'We will be vindicated' -

"I'm proud to be taken to jail for my ideas... we will be vindicated by history and by the Greek people," he told reporters outside his home in an affluent northern Athens suburb, before turning himself in. 

"I thank the hundreds of thousands of Greeks who stood by Golden Dawn all these years," said the 62-year-old mathematician and former protege of Greek dictator Georgios Papadopoulos.

Those going to jail include deputy Golden Dawn leader Christos Pappas and the party's former spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris, who recently formed a new nationalist party.

But the ruling cannot be immediately enforced in the case of former Golden Dawn lawmaker Ioannis Lagos, who was elected to the European parliament in 2019 and has immunity.

The court has issued guilty verdicts to Michaloliakos and over 50 other defendants, including his wife, on October 7. 

But the conclusion was delayed by a number of legal disputes, including last week when Lagos tried to have the court's three judges recused for bias.

The head judge Maria Lepenioti on Monday also publicly questioned the state prosecutor's demand that most of the convicted be provisionally released pending appeals trials, which could take years to adjudicate.

- Modelled on Nazi party -

The court has accepted that Golden Dawn was a criminal organisation tightly run by Michaloliakos under a military-style hierarchy modelled on Hitler's Nazi party.

In a lengthy investigation, pre-trial magistrates outlined how the group formed black-clad militia to intimidate and beat up opponents with knuckle dusters, crowbars and knives.

Two district militia chiefs -- one of them heading the squad that ambushed Fyssas -- have been sentenced to over 10 years in prison.

Another ex-Golden Dawn organiser, former death metal bassist Georgios Germenis who is now an assistant for Lagos at the European parliament, on Thursday said his conviction was "absurd" and politically motivated.

"I am 100 percent innocent. I was just helping people," Germenis said as he turned himself in at his local police station.

For Michaloliakos, the sentence caps a stunning downfall for a man whose party was the country's third most popular in 2015, the year the trial began.

The former fringe party won 18 seats in parliament in 2012 after tapping into anti-austerity and anti-migrant anger during Greece's decade-long debt crisis.

It failed to win a single seat in last year's parliamentary election.

Michaloliakos and other former Golden Dawn lawmakers had already spent several months in prison after Fyssas' murder in 2013.

Time served in pre-trial detention will be deducted from the overall sentence.

Under Greek law, they must serve at least two-fifths of their sentence before requesting an early release.