It was after completing a trial that lasted five years, in which 68 people were accused. The leaders of the group can be sentenced with great difficulty.
The neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn was declared a “criminal organization”, and its leaders face harsh sentences in one of the most important trials in the political history of Greece.
The sentence provoked applause in the courtroom and an explosion of jubilation among the 15,000 people who gathered outside the courthouse, although there were also altercations between the protesters and the police.
Judge Maria Lepenioti, who presided over the process, that lasted more than five years, declared that the founder and leader of Golden Dawn, Nikos Michaloliakos, and other prominent members of the formation were guilty of “running a criminal organization.”
Among the damned, about 45 in total, include independent MEP Yiannis Lagos, who left the party last year, former spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris and a dozen leading members of the formation, who were elected to Parliament in 2012 during the rise of Golden Dawn.
None of these members were present in court. The court did not announce the sentences, but Michaloliakos and other convicts face between 5 and 15 years in prison.
Since the morning, thousands of people, summoned by the anti-fascist movement, the unions and the left parties, gathered in front of the court, in the center of Athens. After the reading of the ruling, amid the jubilation, protesters threw Molotov cocktails, and the security forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades and water pipes, for about twenty minutes, until the crowd dispersed, according to an AFP journalist.
The court also declared to Yorgos Roupakias, a member of Golden Dawn, guilty of the murder of an anti-fascist rapper in 2013.
Left-wing activist Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death on September 18, 2013, at the age of 34, in front of a coffee shop in his neighborhood of Keratsini, a western suburb of Athens. His murderer, who acknowledged having killed him, can be sentenced to life imprisonment.
“Pavlos, you did it!” The rapper’s mother, Magda Fyssas, shouted as she left the court.
“It is a positive decision”added the father, who nevertheless hopes to “see now” what penalties will be decided.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the decision. “Today democracy won,” he declared. Mitsotakis considered that this failure ended a “traumatic” time of Greek public life.
The President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, also congratulated herself on a “historic” failure that “confirms that democracy and its institutions will always win” when they “try to shake them.”
In addition to the murder of Fyssas, the court also addressed two “attempted homicides” in which several members of Golden Dawn are implicated: one against Egyptian fishermen on June 12, 2012 and the other against members of the communist union PAME on September 12, 2013.
Total, 68 people were tried, of which about twenty are former deputies and party officials, including Michaloliakos.
Upon leaving the court, the lawyers for the civil parties greeted a “historic decision.” “Golden Dawn is a Nazi criminal organization”said Thanassi Kampayannis, a lawyer for the PAME union.
“Justice has been done: Golden Dawn is a criminal organization,” added Kostas Papadakis, the lawyer for the Egyptian fishermen.