150th Hearing, Court of Appeals, May 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. Audience and press attendance was slightly increased compared to other hearings.
ΙΙ. Presence and representation of the defendants
None of the defendants were present at the hearing.
ΙΙΙ. Witness testimony of Professor Nikolaos Alivizatos
A. Examination by the members of the court
The witness stated that he is professor emeritus of law in the University of Athens, that he used to teach constitutional law since 1979, and that he is also a lawyer. He mentioned that he believes he has been called to testify because of an incident that took place at a conference for the citizenship rights of immigrants organized by the Hellenic League for Human Rights in 2010. The Hellenic League for Human Rights had prepared a drafted bill, as they had found that Greece was the only country in Europe that did not have measures in place for immigrants’ children that are born in Greece. The crucial article stated that children born of documented immigrants, after five years should automatically be granted Greek citizenship. The witness was presiding over the conference, and among the invited speakers there was a wide spectrum of people that were supportive of the drafted bill. When they went to the conference hall half an hour before the conference was slated to begin, they found a few men strategically arranged around the hall. The conference commenced normally but when the president of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises commenced his speech some people started shouting “Outrage!” and interrupted the event shouting the slogan “Greece belongs to Greeks!”. It was then, at the end of 2010, that they first got wind of the presence of Golden Dawn. The witness had been grabbed by the lapels by Panagiotaros who told him that the witness’s name was in reality Lavi and that he is a Jew. The incident was reported that same night on Golden Dawn’s webpage. After the incident, in September 2012, the witness wrote an article in Kathimerini in which he claimed that we don’t need to vote a new law that introduces a specific offense and bans a political party, but to take the initiative and force the Police to gather the necessary material. He supported the same position in more of his articles, and appeared in the TV show of Giannis Pretenderis, where he claimed that the legal arsenal was already in place.
The next day a bomb went off at 06:00 in the Aspropyrgos chapter of Golden Dawn, and Golden Dawn sued him, thinking the witness was responsible for the bomb. In his memorandum he supported that as a professor he was very sensitive about what we should do in democratic times and the case was finally archived. In various public appearances and articles at the time the witness claimed that Golden Dawn should not be banned, however the democratic forces are obliged to take action. Constitutional history has often debated what we should do about political parties that preach or use violence. His estimate is that Golden Dawn is a criminal organization. It has all the elements provided by law, which are: structure, organization, and permanence. He reached this conclusion after the incident in the Old Parliament, but also after various incidents across Greece, i.e. that there is a center of decisions and that the crucial term is “assault squads”. His mind immediately conjured the term when he saw them enter the street fruit market of Missolonghi, after he had read about the incident with the Egyptians. And as a professor of constitutional law, his great dilemma is the deterioration of democracy, the egg of the serpent. The witness mentioned that Golden Dawn has a structure, a network, and thereafter an organization, which can be summarized as core, structure, and discipline. Michaloliakos himself responded to his article in Kathimerini with an article he published in the newspaper of Golden Dawn.
The witness added that the objectives of Golden Dawn are chosen according to its ideology. The targets include immigrants, social pariahs, and there’s also a preference towards anarchists and leftists. If the skin color is dark, so much the better for Golden Dawn, since this plays into their ideology, which is fully nationalist-socialist. This is a phenomenon which is rare in Europe. Concerning the Führer Principle, the witness estimated that the leader is always present and controls everything. The witness went on to make a distinction between the various forms of violence one sees every day and the violence practiced by Golden Dawn as intrinsic to the party. The witness had this to say: “If they stop using violence, they will become ANEL, they will become LAOS [: two other parties of the populist right]. They will become dandies, softies. Violence is intrinsic to them. Without violence Golden Dawn will cease to exist. This is what I believe about Golden Dawn. Violence is an intrinsic, structural element”. When asked if he is afraid the witness stated that he is at an age when his children are grown up and that as he grows older he becomes less and less afraid.
Concerning the assault squads the witness said that the core element of a liberal democracy is to accept anyone who supports a different view. You must be able to express your views, even the dictatorship of the proletariat. A line must be drawn in the use of violence, not in the future, but right away. The Erebus of Nazism on one hand and the anarchy of communism on the other. Even though he is not an adherent of the theory of the two extremes, he believes that if both practices aren’t made illegal, democracy will not survive.
B. Examination of the witness by the civil action counsels
The witness was examined in turn by civil action counsels Kabagiannis, Skarmeas, Sapountzakis, Zafeiriou, Vrettos, Theodoropoulos, Tobatzoglou, and Tzellis. He testified that in the case of Fyssas there was a mechanism in place to receive the call of the man that was present at the incident. In very little time these specific people were gathered in that specific place to hunt down this specific man. Concerning the permanence of its structure, the fact that he has seen uniforms causes him to think of assault squads, saying “It’s another iteration of Hitler’s model”. The witness added that violence is intrinsic to the organization and that this is the crucial difference between other parties that have used or use violence. Another element of a criminal organization is that it assimilates illegal acts. Concerning the incident in the Old Parliament House of Athens, the witness testified that it was proven later that the people that caused the incident were members of Golden Dawn. It had all been planned, and this is proven by the fact that there is still a video posted in one of their webpages. At this conference he came face to face with Panagiotaros, who caught him by the lapel, and he also appeared to be the leader, since it was him who later gave the signal for the others to depart. As for the increase of violent incidents involving Golden Dawn, the witness stated that when they saw their seats in parliament increase they “got reckless”. He also stated that up to 2012 they were trying to show that these incidents were caused by a few hotheads, but after 2012 it was shown clearly that there was a mind that was planning the whole operation. The witness also added that there’s no doubt that Golden Dawn is tantamount to Nazism, and is proud about its heritage. When asked whether Golden Dawn is a political party that is conducive to democracy or the contrary, he said “I am a lawyer, I have no interest in motives. They have every right to say it, as long as they don’t use violence”. Regarding the connection of Golden Dawn to Christianity, he said that Golden Dawn is not a Christian organization, since what they preach has nothing to do with the Christian message of love, and that Golden Dawn wants to keep up appearances that it is on good terms with Christian values.
He went on to make a distinction between a simple act of intimidation, a decision which could have been taken by the local chapter, and the murder of Fyssas, where a knife was used, and the OK had to be given from above. Concerning the assault squads, he said that he has seen Golden Dawners training near the river Neda, who gave the impression that they were preparing for an assault squad. He said the same about Meligalas, where they used military formation, and about Thermopylae, where they carried lit torches, something that brought to his mind the Nuremberg rallies. Concerning the incident at Meligalas, the witness stated that Golden Dawn was very smart to take advantage of it to show that it restores the historical truth, and that the Greek government “stupidly” allows the emergence of such phenomena. When asked about the incident at the inspection of street fruit market in Missolonghi, he said that constitutional science has a term for such activities –“parastate”-, and for the persons that perform them “an operative of the parastate”. These actions arm the witness with reasons to be angry with them, since they are outspoken Nazis. He added that Golden Dawn makes a show of respecting the rule of law. The witness said: “If they could have us bound in chains in an Aegean island, they would. We should be thankful that we aren’t yet all exterminated”. Lastly, when asked about the slogan “Blood, Honor, Golden Dawn”, he said that the first instinctive reading is the sacrifice for own’s country, and that’s the message they want to send. But when honor is only in support of blood and not morality, then we are guided towards violence.
C. Examination of the witness by the defense counsels
The witness was examined in turn by defense counsels Pantazis, Kontovazenitis, Dimitrakopoulos, Tsagas, Zografou, Aggeletos, Oplantzakis, and Velentza. Responding to a relevant question he said that even a cursory examination by the man in the street would immediately place Golden Dawn at the end of the political spectrum. He accepted the claim of one of the counsels that the political climate of 2012 was conducive to extreme political parties and Golden Dawn was expressing some very specific political positions in the society, but, thankfully, according to the witness, they didn’t see the approval ratings increase that they had hoped for. The witness also mentioned symbolic activism, which must be tolerated, but not acts of violence, and liberal constitutional democracy is obliged to be tolerant of the voters of Golden Dawn. When asked about the fact that Boukouras and Alexopoulos became independent MPs, he said that he was annoyed that these people did not take responsibility, and that he does not expect statements of repentance, but merely a succinct statement that would show that their secession happened after an honest change of heart from the things they saw within the organization. He made a distinction between the interruption of a theatrical performance, such as the incident after the death of Grigoropoulos, especially when it is carried out by kids, and which must be tolerated, and such an act to happen again and again. What is important is system and permanence. The witness was then asked about the objective and subjective status of article 187 of the CCP, as well as the reasoning behind it, but he did not remember. The witness then said that the press was keeping its distance from Golden Dawn in its commenting but not the reporting of the facts, which were real and objective. When asked whether Golden Dawn could have a student party in the Athens School of Law, and if it could participate in the student elections, the witness stated “The next day Michaloliakos issued a statement that the murder of Fyssas was a step too far and condemned the fact and upheld democracy with legal means, I would be the first to support their inclusion in the elections”, and added that he had such a relationship with his students that, following an unequivocal condemnation of the Fyssas murder, none would oppose him. Concerning the protection of political pluralism he said that, according to his personal beliefs, the extreme political positions should be tolerated, even hate speech, unless of course it is directed to particular persons. Even the article by Plevris, who is their mentor, and who said that all Jews should be exterminated, should be tolerated. But to go outside the house of a Jew and shout that he must die, it is unacceptable. When asked whether the dearth of political pluralism affects the things that sway the viewers-voters, the witness stressed that the principle of equality and equal treatment presupposes the equal treatment of essentially equal conditions. So Golden Dawn should have minded its step. Concerning the incident at the Old Parliament House, he said that is one thing for a member of the audience to ask to speak, to hang a banner, to hurl an insult, and quite another what happened, which was a first. They took the microphone and insulted them at length, but they [:the organizers of the conference] didn’t press charges because they attributed it to political activism. Concerning whether the crimes of Golden Dawn are of a political nature, he said that in his personal opinion there are no political crimes in democracy, there are though political motives and it is a contradiction (contradictio in terminis) to attribute noble motives to someone who attacks democracy. He testified that his articles predated by a whole year the murder of Fyssas and the mobilization of the legal apparatus, in which he claimed that Golden Dawn should have been persecuted as a criminal organization. When asked about the lawsuit against him that was archived, in his memorandum he mentioned that within the limits of his academic freedoms he felt the need to say the things he said, and God forbid if we criminalize the academic reasoning. Lastly, the questions of the defense revolved around the incident at Neda and the people that go camping, but the presiding judge forbade the witness to answer.
At this point the presiding judge adjourned for Monday, May 8th, 2017, with the conclusion of the witness examination by the rest of the defense counsels, at the Court of Appeals.