Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has been classified as a criminal organisation in an historic ruling that leaves the party leadership facing lengthy jail terms for running a gang.
The five-year legal battle was sparked by the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, 34, who performed under the name Killah P, who was stabbed to death by Golden Dawn members in Athens in 2013.
The court found seven of Golden Dawn’s 18 former MPs, including party founder Nikos Michaloliakos, guilty of running the criminal enterprise, leaving them facing up to 15 years each in jail.
Presiding judge Maria Lepenioti announced that other members of the party were guilty of being part of the gang, a sentence which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. In total, there are 68 defendants.
The sentences due to be handed down at a separate hearing and none of the party leaders were present on Wednesday. All have vociferously denied the allegations, saying they are victims of political persecution.
Prosecutors had argued that Golden Dawn operated under a military-style leadership that encouraged intimidation, beatings, and even killings
Judge Maria Lepenioti (centre) today ruled the Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is a criminal organisation in an historic ruling that leaves party leadership facing lengthy jail terms
A crowd of demonstrators, which included former Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, gathered outside court – where he accused Golden Dawn of ‘poisoning society’
Demonstrators gather to witness the end of a five-year legal battle that has seen Greece’s Golden Dawn party declared a criminal organsation, that used violence to intimidate its rivals
The case was sparked after anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death in Athens in 2013. His mother, Magda (pictured), was in court to hear the verdict – and celebrated after it was read out
Magda (left) and Dimitris Fyssas (right), the parents of murdered anti-fascist rapper Pavlos, celebrated in front of demonstrators outside court after the verdict was handed down
Pavlos, who performed under the name Killah P (pictured at a gig in 2011) was chased down and stabbed to death by a gang of Golden Dawn supporters in Athens in 2013 – an attack that party leadership were aware of
Nikos Michaloliakos, the founder of Golden Dawn and a former MP, is now facing up to 15 years in jail for running the gang alongside six of his senior leaders, while 61 others are facing up to 10 years for being part of the enterprise
A crowd of 15,000 anti-fascist demonstrators had gathered outside the Athens’ courthouse to hear the verdict, waving banners that read ‘the people want Nazis in jail!’ as scuffles broke out with police.
Magda Fyssas, the mother of Pavlos, was seen cheering in court as the verdict was read out, before celebrating outside in front of the crowds. ‘Pavlos did it. My son,’ she shouted.
Hundreds of police were deployed around the court, just a few miles from the historic centre of Athens, in order to keep the peace.
Fyssas’s murderer, truck driver and senior Golden Dawn operative Yiorgos Roupakias, was officially convicted at the same hearing, having previously confessed to the crime. He is now facing life in prison.
The court also handed down sentences to 15 party members accused of being accomplices in Fyssas’s killing.
Judges also found five people guilty of attempted murder for attacks on Egyptian migrant fisherman in 2011, and found four people guilty of bodily harm for attacks on left-wing activists in 2013.
The party was accused of using beatings, intimidation and murder as tactics to quash opposition, all with the knowledge of senior party members.
In total, 68 members of the party have been on trial, including Michaloliakos and more than a dozen other former MPs like him who were elected in 2012 as the openly xenophobic group capitalised on discontent over joblessness and migration.
15,000 left-wing and anti-fascist demonstrators gathered outside the court to hear the verdict, before a small group threw Molotovs and rocks at police, who responded with tear gas
A protesters appears to aim a can of mace spray at police officers as clashes break out outside the court in Athens
Left-wing activists waving banners that read ‘the people want Nazis in jail’ march through the streets of Athens, ahead of the end of a five-year court battle which saw Golden Dawn ruled a criminal gang
Protesters carry banners bearing the face of Pavlos Fyssas, also known as Killah P, an anti-fascist rapper whose stabbing death in 2013 sparked the case against Golden Dawn
Demonstrators shout slogans as they march along the streets outside Athens’ central court, ahead of a verdict that ruled Gold Dawn is a criminal gang masquerading as a political party
Protesters wave banners denouncing fascism and Nazism as they march through the streets of Athens on Wednesday
As well as delivering a verdict in the murder trial for Fyssas and the trial of senior leaders of Golden Dawn, the court was also to hand down judgements for two other assault cases allegedly involving Golden Dawn members.
An Egyptian fisherman was left with broken teeth and head injuries after being beaten with clubs and metal bars in June 2012 as he slept.
Just over a year later, Communists putting up posters were attacked with nail-studded clubs.
Golden Dawn was at its political peak at the time of Fyssas’s murder, having won 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament in 2012 amid anger over a financial crisis in Greece that discredited mainstream political parties.
Three years later, it also sent three deputies to the European parliament in another strong showing.
But the investigation took its toll, causing a number of senior members to defect. In the last election in 2019, the party failed to win a single seat.
Golden Dawn was founded by Michaloliakos in the 1980s, with the aim of bringing military dictatorship back to Greece. At the time Michaloliakos described it as a patriotic party of ultra-nationalists.
The party has denied being neo-Nazi or fascist, thought Michaloliakos has admitted to being a Holocaust denier and admirer of Hitler.
Golden Dawn, which was founded with the aim of bringing military dictatorship back to Greece, denies being neo-Nazi – though it makes use of Nazi symbolism and leader Michaloliakos has said he is an admirer of Hitler (file image)