By Sacha Perera
On Wednesday afternoon this week, an Athenian court found Golden Dawn, a far-right, neo-fascist political group, guilty of running a criminal organisation.
The verdict concludes a five-and-a-half-year long trial against 68 members who, including the entirety of the entity’s leadership, are accused of four crimes and face sentences between five and fifteen years.
Golden Dawn’s founder and leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, 62, vehemently denies all charges, claiming he and his party have been subjected to political persecution.
The self-proclaimed fascist founded the organisation in the mid-80s, but its roots date back a decade further to when, under the military dictatorship of the Greek Junta, Michaloliakos developed his neo-Nazi beliefs.
The group’s popularity peaked in May 2012 during a time of great economic uncertainty; obtaining almost 7% of the vote in the general election, and 18 of the 300 parliamentary seats, to become the third largest party in Greece at the time.
Emboldened by its rise, some supporters attacked migrants and political opponents, including Abouzid Embarak and three other Egyptian fishermen in 2012, as well as several communist trade unionists a year later.
These assaults came to a head on September 18, 2013 following the murder of the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, 34, also known as “Killhah P”, whose work and lyrics are heartfelt, containing dreams and plans of building a better society which he hoped would be his legacy.
One of the fifteen people who chased and stabbed Fyssas to death, Giorgos Roupakias, has been found guilty on all charges. The accused, a former senior operative within Golden Dawn, has appealed for a smaller sentence on the grounds that he feels “sincere remorse” for his actions.
Despite the grave and regrettable reasons for the trial, its conclusion was a celebratory one. On the steps of the courthouse Fyssas’s Mother proclaimed her son’s martyrdom shouting: “Pavlos, you did it,” after finally seeing justice for her child, who will always be remembered for realising a dream which he shared with so many others.
Some 15,000 of his comrades celebrated the verdict with his family on the streets around the court, but the jubilant atmosphere quickly turned hostile as police fired water cannons and released tear gas in retaliation to a group of protesters, who bombarded them with missiles following the result.
Irrespective of the chaotic conclusion, members across the political spectrum have openly rejoiced in the decision. Even the Prime Minister, who under normal circumstances “consciously refrain[s] from commenting on court decisions”, couldn’t help but share in the universal satisfaction that Golden Dawn’s criminal character has been recognised.
As the PM went on to note, “Greece suffered as few countries did from Nazism”, resulting in the death of around a million people due to negligent economic management and military conflict. The result this week, therefore, is a particularly meaningful one and, above all, a testament to the strength of Greek democracy and its institutions — once again landing the country on the right side of history.