133rd Hearing, Court of Appeals, March 3rd, 2017
I. Access to the Court
The courtroom remains open to the public upon presentation of a state ID card, which is retained by court authorities for the duration of the session. There was significant attendance from members of the press, reduced public attendance, and increased police presence in the courtroom
II. Presence of defendants
None of the defendants was present at the hearing.
III. Testimony of witness Elghandour Naim
A. Examination by the members of the court
Responding to questions by the presiding judge, the witness testified that he is a businessman and the president of the Muslim community of Greece since 2004. He has been living in Greece for many years, he has taken the Greek citizenship, and is a resident of Ilioupoli.
The witness explained that due to his position he knows of many crimes committed by members of Golden Dawn against Muslims which have not been reported to the authorities. He mentioned the incident involving Ahmed Ibrahim, an Egyptian man, who in 2011 was gravely injured by members of Golden Dawn “who intended to murder him”, because he was gathering pieces of metal from garbage bins. The injured man couldn’t press charges because he was in Greece without a residence permit and he would have been deported. He left Greece because of the financial crisis. The witness went on to mention the stabbing of Mohammed Sal, an Egyptian man, by members of Golden Dawn, in 2011 in Panormou St. In this case, too, no charges were filed against the assailants.
The witness made mention of the (makeshift) mosques that Muslims open in order to be able to perform their religious duties. He cleared up that there are about 100 such places of worship in Attica, and that the police is notified of their use accordingly.
The witness mentioned the attack of October 30th, 2010, in a place of worship in Attikis Square, when 40 Bangladeshis were inside the premises. The members of Golden Dawn, knowing full well that there was no other exit, broke the glass door that gave out on to the street, threw some garbage in, doused it in petrol and lit it in order to burn them alive. The people that were trapped inside, as well as the old woman that was staying above the mosque, escaped death only because they managed to put out the fire. They called their embassy, and the fire department and the police arrived soon afterwards. The police did not open the door to the mosque, because many members of Golden Dawn were still outside, who were going to attack the Bangladeshis if they got a chance. When the Golden Dawners left, the police allowed the people that were inside to come out. The witness was informed of the incident and spoke with Balakos, Police Chief of Attica, stressing that the aforementioned mosque should not be closed down so that the arson would not be seen as a victory for Golden Dawn. At this point the witness stated that the Muslim community has co-operated numerous times with the police in various seminars etc., concerning national security. The mosque started to be guarded round the clock by the police.
The witness visited the mosque in question every day in order to pray and boost the morale of the Bangladeshis. Every day, from November 1st, 2010, up to November 16th, 2010, a group of women and minors headed by defendant Skordeli spotted him in the area and started swearing at him. On November 17th, 2010, a group of about 50 people that included women, children, old people, and behind them Golden Dawners with black shirts, threw bottles of water and swore at them. They called the police and the witness directly called the Police Chief of Attica. Four patrol cars arrived and took the witness for questioning to the police station of Agios Panteleimonas, while arresting no one from the group of Golden Dawners. At this point the witness stressed that according to the findings of human rights organizations the Agios Panteleimonas police station has been collaborating with Golden Dawn. Two hundred people had gathered outside the police station, Golden Dawners and Skordeli. They included the 50 people that were earlier involved in the incident, along with other people wearing black shirts emblazoned with Golden Dawn insignia. The gathered Golden Dawners were shouting “out, we’ll crush you, we will fuck you up”. The witness was transferred to a safe area by a unit of riot police.
The witness then talked about the Muslim communities. He explained that there are many of them and that it is a complicated matter: There are some that are operational but don’t have legal status, and others that have legal status but do not operate (“shell organizations”). Because of his position the witness met with Skordeli -who up until 2009 appeared as a concerned citizen of the area (and not a member of Golden Dawn)- to reach a solution. The defendant thought that the witness “possessed a vivid imagination, if he thought that he would solve the area’s problems”. The witness had complained to Skordeli that “you teach kids 14-15 years old to knife people”. He stated that minors at this age had knifed people, such as a minor who had stabbed an Afghan man in 2009-2010 near the Attiki station. The witness did not connect the incidents from back then with Golden Dawn. Skordeli had responded to his complaint by saying “we are preparing the children to deal with the future”. According to the witness Skordeli had an agenda, was not operating logically, and declared that she was proud to be a member of Golden Dawn.
The witness then mentioned more attacks and damage to property in places of worship, more specifically in 2011 in Kallithea (they broke the door and lit a fire), in Moschato (they shouted slogans and threw a pig’s head), in Neos Kosmos (they sent threatening letters that said “if you don’t leave until 3/6 we’ll slaughter you like chickens” and the envelope contained the Golden Dawn logo) etc. Even Egyptian Christians (Copts) had been stabbed, and when they went to the Kallithea police precinct, the police commander took a video of them with his mobile phone, insulted them, and then told them that if they didn’t leave he would give the video to Golden Dawn. The witness then made public announcements concerning this incident, and the matter was handed over to the Internal Affairs Division of the Greek Police, which has performed admirably in many cases.
The witness stated that the Golden Dawners “had this audacity, they thought they were above the law […]. Like a state within a state”, such as in the case of the Egyptian fishermen, in which Lagos had said in public that the fishermen would answer to Golden Dawn and the same night they attacked them. The witness also mentioned an attack by two Golden Dawners on an Egyptian inside a trolley bus. According to the witness, verbatim, “the attacks stopped, indeed this has changed, they were stopping the Bangladeshis in the street all the time and asked for their papers and tore them up and took any money they had. All this stopped because of Fyssas’ death. That was when they stopped”.
The witness referred to a gathering of Golden Dawners headed by Skordeli outside his residence in Ilioupoli, on the occasion of one of their rallies. He also referred in detail to the torture of Walid Taleb, an Egyptian man in Salamina in 2012 by the baker Sgourdas and his son, who had said he was a member of Golden Dawn.
Responding to a question by the state prosecutor, the witness stated that the attacks and the stabbings were perpetrated by Golden Dawn as a show of strength, and as a part of the election campaign of Michaloliakos to become mayor of Athens. He also cleared up that the two Bangladeshis that issued an announcement that the witness was responsible for the incident in the place of worship on October 30th, 2010, in Attikis Square had been bribed by Golden Dawn in order to close down the mosque – which in any case is still in operation. The witness stated that his community does not collaborate with the local police but directly with the Ministry of Public Safety.
Among other things the witness mentioned that Golden Dawners can be identified on the internet because they make many spelling mistakes when they write.
B. Examination of the witness by the civil action counsels
The witness was questioned by the civil action counsels Kabagiannis, Zafeiriou, Stratis, Vrettos, and Tzellis. He was shown, among other things, photos of the aforementioned (as mentioned in paragraph III.B) places of worship that came under attack. The witness ruled out the possibility that any of the attacks were carried out by Sunni Muslims. He said that “we don’t want to cause any problems. We love the Greek people and they love us”. He also referred to the LAOS political party, whose racist rhetoric -according to the witness- preceded Golden Dawn’s, but which, contrary to Golden Dawn’s, stayed at the level of declarations, and its supporters did not carry out attacks. Responding to a question by civil action counsel Zafeiriou, the witness stated that “there’s no greater climate of terror in Greece than the one created by Golden Dawn”.
IV. Testimony of witness Salum Francis continues (examination by the defense counsels)
The witness was questioned -assisted by an interpreter from English- in turn by the defense counsels Tsagas, Zografos, Michalolias (G.), and Tsabatzis.
Up to 2015 the witness was the president of the Tanzanian community, which has its offices in 1, Lemesou St., opposite “Cointreau”, Ciprien Amougou’s establishment, and is a resident of Greece for the past 12 years. The witness was not a resident of the area when the attack took place.
Furthermore, responding to questions by the aforementioned defense counsels concerning various issues related to the attack against the aforementioned establishment, the witness answered to most of them by saying that he was in no position to know the things he was asked. Among other things, the witness responded that he was in no way connected to the bar “Africana”, that he did not know if it had been closed down by municipal authorities, that he did not know Ciprien Amougou, that he was not familiar with “Cointreau” bar, that he did not remember who gave him the DVD that he then handed over to the police station. The witness stated that the Tanzanian community did not operate any bars, and that he doesn’t know who was the proprietor of the bars “Africa” and “Africana”. When questioned he said that he didn’t see any spike in the number of Greeks moving out of the area or its ghettoization due to rising crime rates. He did not participate in the meeting of other communities concerning the attacks on immigrants -which was mentioned by Seck Khadim- but was informed of the results. He mentioned two attacks with dynamite, without going into details.
The presiding judge adjourned for March 7th, 2017, at the Court of Appeals, when the examination of Salum Francis by the defense counsels will continue and witness Elghandour Naim will be examined by the defense counsels.