151st Hearing, Court of Appeals, May 8th, 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 increased attendance by the public and members of the press.
ΙΙ. Presence and representation of the defendants
None of the defendants were present at the hearing.
The hearing commenced with the conclusion of the witness testimony by constitutional law expert Nikolaos Alivizatos, and continued with the testimony of witness Fotis Andreopoulos, former president of the Sunday School for Immigrants in Piraeus.
ΙV. Testimony of witness Nikolaos Alivizatos resumes
A. Examination of the witness by the defense counsels
The witness answered questions by the defense counsels, talking about the concentric circles formed by the organization of Golden Dawn. The role of Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, is crucial. The witness stated that the placement of candidates on the Golden Dawn ballot proves that said candidates are part of this section of the political spectrum, since they [:the leadership] never place a random person, and that the subsequent participation in criminal acts must be proven.
He clarified that his testimony to the investigative judge, whom he visited after a written summons, describes assault squads, even if he didn’t use the exact wording, since he repeatedly mentions a core that issues orders to use violence, to groups with a cohesive structure which commit these acts. He also said that Neda and Meligalas gave him the impression of assault squads.
Referring to an article he published in 2012, he said that he drew on the answer of then minister Dendias to the question of an MP, and he looked up on the internet the list of incidents that had been investigated by the police. He maintained that the fact that the preliminary investigation was concluded in just 4-5 days was a victory for the Greek judicial system, however he stressed that journalists have an investigative role and that’s why they were called to the preliminary testimony, since the police had been negligent in their duties for a long time.
He stressed that the food handouts to Greeks only upon presentation of an ID card could be a crime under the articles of the law against racism. Referring to the decision by the Council of State, he said that according to the Court’s decision the cutting off of funding for Golden Dawn, since more than half of its MPs are on trial.
He spoke of repeated incidents, such as the inspections in Missolonghi and Rafina, in which the perpetrators acted in similar fashion, something that gives the witness the impression that there is a headquarters that issues orders. He said that he has received threatening phone calls, which he supposes come from Golden Dawn. Referring to [:Golden Dawn MP] Kasidiaris he said that “even his sweetest words are filled with violence”, noting that he doesn’t speak about their content, but about the tone of said defendant.
Responding to another question, the witness stated that he hasn’t seen any other such groups in Greece, apart from the armed and security forces, whereas the event to honor Imia reminded him of the Nuremberg Rallies.
He said that the drama of liberal democracy is that the person who turns against someone else must be tolerated, but up to a point, that is, up to the point where [:theoretical] opposition is transformed into action. He went on to say that a mature democracy can tolerate low-level delinquency, if it doesn’t evolve into more organized structures.
When describing the incident in the Old Parliament House of Athens he said that the participants had been taken by surprise, and the witness, who was presiding, insisted and was saying “Please let us finish”. He labeled that particular incident as early-stage, since it was one of the first appearances of Golden Dawn before it entered Parliament, and the witness saw an adequate capacity for organization. Referring to Barbaroussis, he said that he can be clearly discerned by his rich mane, saying that he is the exception to the rule of the appearance of other members of Golden Dawn.
The leadership of Golden Dawn, which consists of five members, according to the witness, can be discerned by their exposure to the media, as well as by his own experience. Witness Alivizatos claimed that the climate of fear cultivated in the public by members of Golden Dawn is a persecutable offense, and its end goal is to establish a Nazi State, the same way it happened in Italy and Germany in the 1930’s.
When asked about the famous “giddup” incident he told the defense counsels, who told him that it wasn’t said by Michaloliakos, that even in the army the order is given by a sergeant, not by the general. He underscored that behind the veil of a political party hides a criminal organization which has a core leadership, which is enveloped by a second circle formed by regular members, whose [:criminal] participation must be proven, and a third, wider circle, those that vote Golden Dawn without being members. He also doubted the party’s nationalist character, as its own leader has branded it, stressing that both the logo and colors of the party are Nazi.
Responding to a relevant question he said that he was called to the witness stand of this trial as an expert witness, since he has dealt with this particular subject and has written a book on the subject of violence. He said that Michaloliakos is the undisputed leader, whose decrees are blindly followed by the rest, and therefore his responsibility is not only political, but criminal as well.
When asked once more about the “giddup” incident, he said that he rules out, according to the rules of common sense, that it was said automatically, but that it has been said before and Germenis fumbled and said it in front of the journalists. He said that an MP should transmit the indignance of the people, but with self-restraint, so that we won’t be led to civil war.
V. Witness testimony of Fotis Andreopoulos
A. Examination of the witness by the members of the court
Responding to questions by the presiding judge, the witness said that he is an occupational therapist based in a lyceum in Piraeus. At this point he is serving as an aide to the SYRIZA MP Stamatakis in the electoral district A’ Piraeus. In 2006, along with other teachers, they founded an association, whose memorandum of association has been approved by the court of first instance and whose goal was to give lessons of Greek language and culture to immigrants. The association, in which the witness is a volunteer, is operates out of the 14th High School of Piraeus, in Old Kokkinia, and is open on Sundays, Saturdays, and lately even Wednesdays, outside of regular school hours. The space was given by the Municipality of Piraeus, and everyone involved is working pro bono.
The students are all adults, mainly workers, and during the last years, the Sunday School has been giving foreign language lessons to Greeks and immigrants alike. The number of students that come to classes this year are about 200, and in total about 7000 immigrants have been taught the Greek language in the years that the association has been operating.
When asked he said that initially the parents of the children of the school were afraid, but when it was made clear that the classes would take place in classrooms not used by children, and that bathrooms would be separate, the parents and teachers association agreed.
However, much later, a Golden Dawn MP submitted a question in Parliament about the reasons that led to the granting of classrooms that were used by children to the association. Both the Municipality and the principal of the high school issued official responses that refuted the MP’s claims, and the responses were communicated to the association. The witness proceeded to mention incidents of vandalism that took place in the school in August of 2014, following his testimony to the investigative judge. The perpetrators had broken down the door of the classroom used by the association, and tried to take a PC. On the wall outside they wrote “Golden Dawn Youth League”.
The witness referred to assaults against his own students, as well as other immigrants. This is what he said: “We wanted to teach these people to read and write, but we found ourselves shouldering a burden that wasn’t our own to bear”. He spoke of assaults against immigrants which commenced in 2011 and became more brutal, systematic, and organized from 2012 onwards. He described the racist assault against one of his students, Nasser Mahmoud, originally of Pakistan, near Village cinemas, by about 10 people aged 14 to16. He also testified that in the middle of February of that same year he received a phone call by a woman who informed him that some Pakistanis had been beaten, who were neighbors of her and lived in a basement apartment at the intersection of Deligiorgi and Distomou Streets. Describing the incident he said that the assailants knocked on the door and one of the Pakistanis opened it, completely unawares. The assailants pushed the door open and started hitting them in the face. They put one of the Pakistanis in a room and hit him with steel rods they took out of their clothes, while outside waited five more assailants. A neighbor heard someone say “Are we all here?” and then they left. Because of the attack one of the Pakistanis was hospitalized for a long time in Asklipiio Hospital in Voula, and his life was in danger. A testimony was given to the police, but the witness didn’t know about the particulars of the case.
Another student of Andreopoulos reported to him an assault against his person in the end of 2012 inside a mass transit bus by people wearing Golden Dawn shirts, who started beating him when he wouldn’t get off the bus, as instructed. The driver closed the doors and they went to the police but the victim did not press charges. The witness said that many of his students told him that they were afraid of people with shaved heads and black shirts, who are Golden Dawners.
Andreopoulos mentioned another incident that took place in the summer of 2012 when he received a phone call by his student Bilal Kamal, because some people somewhere had been attacked. The witness went with his student to the scene of the assault, where many units of the police were present. But in the end the ones that were detained were the immigrants that ran to help. The witness went in support of the immigrants because as he said “the victims can’t be labeled attackers”. After insistent demands by Andreopoulos, the police officers asked the immigrants whether they wanted to press charges, which was filed the next day, after a wait of many hours. They had sent a memo to the Mayor detailing these incidents.
Responding to questions by the state prosecutor the witness answered that the association does not check whether the students are legal or illegal residents, because it is not authorized to do so. Those that want to learn Greek can enroll. The witness said that most of the attacks took place during the night, and gave more examples, such as the attack on a kid that was riding his bicycle, and one more Egyptian Christian on a bike, by assailants riding motorbikes. He also noted that the modus operandi showed many similarities. He also indicated that their memo called for the intervention of the State, since these were all attacks with racist motives.
Responding to questions by the deputy state prosecutor he said that the incidents of assault have virtually stopped since the murder of Fyssas, although he recently heard of attacks against immigrants in Aspropyrgos. When asked about the ideology of Golden Dawn, he said it was neo-nazi.
The presiding judge adjourned for Tuesday, May 9th, 2017, in the Women’s Wing of Korydallos Prison.