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DAY 180: When we made the Nazi salute we had in mind Adolph Hitler, not Aristotle

180th Hearing, Court of Appeals, September 15th, 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 limited attendance by the public, but significant presence of members of the press.

II. Presence and representation of the defendants

None of the defendants was present at the hearing.

ΙΙΙ. Proceedings

The hearing commenced with the motion from civil action counsel Papadakis on his position concerning the motion set forth by defense counsel Pantazis about witness Ioannis Souliotis during the previous hearing. The hearing then proceeded with the testimony of witness Ilias Stavrou, a lawyer and former member of Golden Dawn.

ΙV. Testimony of witness Ilias Stavrou

Responding to questions by the presiding judge, the witness stated that he is a lawyer and a member of the Bar Association of Veroia since October 2013. Kasidiaris phoned and asked him to become a consultant for Zisimopoulos in the Greek Parliament, from July 1st 2012 until December 5th 2013, since he was a prominent member.
Stavrou started frequenting the local chapter of Golden Dawn when he was a student in the Thessaloniki Law School, since his ideology was already aligned with theirs. For three years he was participating in putting up posters and watching speeches, and in 2008 Karanikolopoulos started some seminars in the “cells”, overseen by Tsakiris. The seminars had to do with ideological matters, the participants were handed pamphlets and watched speeches by prominent members, and the participants had to be totally engaged with the party’s activities.

At the end of 2009 he completed the series of seminars and became a probationary member, participating in various events, such as the ones in Meligalas, on the anniversary of Imia, and in the Alexander the Great rallies in Thessaloniki. He didn’t go alone, but they had precise instructions on how to meet and went in ranks of two, in order to give the image of unity and the military character of the party, but also because they were afraid they would be attacked by rival political groups. Stavrou stated that he was never asked to participate in criminal activities, although he heard about it in some circles, and also learned that some of them were beating up immigrants. Responding to another question by the presiding judge, he stated that in his own speeches he was speaking about lawful violence, when Golden Dawn would come into power, when they would sink boats carrying immigrants and place minefields along the borders, under the cover of the lawful actions of a sovereign state.

After two years, in the course of which he completed his military service, he was named a full member. He was sworn in during a ceremony on the mountain Falakro, in the first hours of December 21st, 2011, the winter solstice, a significant date for Golden Dawn, according to the witness, since they hold pagan religious views. The celebration consisted of the singing of an anthem called “The True Banner”, while behind the six persons to be sworn in, waved the banner of the 3rd Reich. Michalis Tsakiris, a member of the political council of Golden Dawn was the person that swore in the new members, which now had the right to participate in the plenary session and take the floor.

In 2012 Stavrou started an election campaign in his home prefecture of Imathia, after a suggestion by Chryssomalis, a member of the political council, and with the support of the leadership of the party against other candidates in the party. In his campaign speeches he talked about disobeying the lenders of EU and putting an end to the memorandums, but also made ideological allusions to Nationalism-Socialism, under the guise of nationalist populism, since there was an order from the party to avoid allusions that pointed to the vanquished of the Second World War. He proposed to deport immigrants and sink the boats of those that tried to get into the country. In the end he wasn’t elected, although he received the most votes.

From the summer of 2012 he started working in the Greek parliament as a consultant. His change of heart took place gradually. The witness said that when he came to Athens he found out that Golden Dawn was involved in criminal activities, that its MPs were participating in them, such as the trashing of the immigrants’ stalls in Missolonghi with Barbaroussis, and the attack in Paros with Michos, whom he heard a few days later say “We fucked them, those fucking pussies”. He came to the conclusion that the attacks weren’t random and isolated incidents, but the leadership knows about it and at the very least does not disapprove. He gradually decided to give less speeches, despite being asked constantly, the last being in Anavyssos in May 2013, since he had been placed there as head of ideological planning, and talked about the superiority of the Greek Race, about antisemitism, and as he said “I was talking about Nationalism-Socialism under the guise of nationalist populism”.

He tried to not make appearances, and in June 2013 he sent a letter to Michaloliakos through Germenis, asking him to be let go from the position of consultant due to personal issues. After a few days he received a text message from Ourania Michaloliakou, who informed him that his resignation was not accepted. From then on the behavior of Golden Dawn members changed, and he received threats such as “leaving the party is not the wisest choice”, “whoever leaves the party is never seen again”, “watch what you’re doing, we’re humans and accidents can happen”. But when he announced to his colleagues that he was leaving, he came back to Veria, and the threats continued. According to the witness, Toliopoulos told him “you’re finished, you faggot”, and they even made threatening phone calls to his mother, who was recovering from a stroke, and to his pregnant wife. The witness believes all these were ways to destroy him politically in his community.

When asked about the ideology of Golden Dawn he said that they clearly espouse Nationalism-Socialism, something that can easily be verified from the printed material of Golden Dawn, especially that of some years ago, when they still made references to Nationalism-Socialism. But even as recently as 2007, the Golden Dawn newspaper had come out bearing an image of Hitler giving the Nazi salute, and the subheader read “1945-2007, 62 years later”.

The witness also mentioned the anti-Semitic rant by MP Arvanitis during a speech by Kasidiaris in the Parliament, in which he had made use of a quote from the anti-Semitic text of Zion. The witness said “Our nationalism is the nationalism of blood. It differs from the Right. The Italian fascists could accept a mulatto, Golden Dawn couldn’t. Schortsianitis [:a Greek colored basketball player] could never become a Golden Dawner. It would cause laughter, when Panagiotaros had clearly said that he didn’t consider him a Greek”, and went on to say “the pamphlet said that for us [:Golden Dawners] the glorious state was that of Germany in 1937. In order to get into the cells you couldn’t be someone they hadn’t checked. If I went and said I am a Greek nationalist and I hate the Nazis that attacked Greece, they would never ask me to become a member”.

The witness stressed that the content of the printed material talked about a single-party state with the abolition of parliamentary democracy and the infiltration of the army and the police, so that they could glean information about the movements of e.g. the anarchists. Violence was directed to the enemies of the race, such as the mixed breeds, because they thought that they union of white and black is an abomination, but also against the anarchists. He also said that the first time he heard an order given, it was by Tsakiris, a member of the political council, who said to gather 20 people and assault some Skopje bands that were playing in Florina. The witness maintained that the attacks such as the ones in Missolonghi, in Rafina, and Paros, were carried out by people that were organized in Golden Dawn. Due to the sudden mass appeal of Golden Dawn in 2012, it wasn’t easy for all those people to become members at once, so in effect they were supporters, and did not belong to the party hierarchy. Stavrou testified that “if someone beat up an immigrant and got arrested, he would be publicly reprimanded. In reality, your leader would tell you that you did good, but don’t do such things, be careful, I understand that you feel hate”.

When asked about whether there were orders to commit the criminal acts that are included in the case file, the witness stated that he didn’t know, however he said that from his experience he believes that “in a party with such a military-style structure, nothing can happen without an order or permission from above. If Michaloliakos orders a hit, the person isn’t what’s important. Golden Dawn does not harbor personal feelings. For Golden Dawn, race is the ideological unit, not the person”.

The witness said that in Golden Dan there were the security teams for example of Nikaia or Perama, in which to be accepted meant that you had an ease with violence, that you put the party’s benefit above your own criminal record, and the witness had also learned that they had been in training, since he had seen photos that showed a group of Golden Dawners standing next to a river and holding AK-47 rifles. Concerning the hierarchy he said that a member reports to the secretary and he in turn to the district leader. The district leader reports to the political council, which consists of seven members, and they in turn report to the secretary general, Michaloliakos.

The witness also said that Golden Dawn gathered an archive of personal data of former members and political opponents, for example anarchists, by gathering audiovisual data.

Concerning the religious positions of Golden Dawn he said that when they were training in the cells, they had been given a pamphlet dealing with religious matters, in which it was mentioned that Nationalism-Socialism rejects Christianity, since Christian morals are at odds with Golden Dawn, something that had also been done in Germany, they had formed a new religion, saying “Germenis sings a song that says fuck Christ, the Virgin Mary is a whore, the Church is rotten, and then appeared in public making the sign of the cross”. However, when they discussed the matter they said that they should have ties with the Church, because it brings people together, and that the Heads of the Church must harbor similar views.

Concerning the salute the witness said “That was always the [Nazi] salute. For those that came for the first time we told them it was the salute of Metaxas, whereas Golden Dawn had absolutely nothing in common with Metaxas, it was just to gather votes from the far-right”, and also said “when we made the Nazi salute we espoused Nationalism-Socialism, we had in mind Adolph Hitler, Rudolph Hess, not Aristotle or Metaxas. And this wasn’t just my own view of things, but every Golden Dawner’s”. He also said that “we didn’t have the swastika hanging on the wall in the offices, that would be suicide. But we took the oath standing in front of the flag of the 3rd Reich.

Concerning the handgun he bought, he said that he took it after he talked with Sachinidis, following an incident in Veria which made him afraid. Sachinidis arranged a meeting of Stavrou with someone named Kasapis, who gave him a gun for €250, which he kept in his car. Stavrou also mentioned watches, pendants, and even belts with embedded cameras, saying that this was how Baltakos must have been filmed.

Responding to a question by the Presiding judge about the role of Michaloliakos in the cases under deliberation, he said there is a hierarchy with a very clear structure, and that it is certain that he must give an order for something to take place. Concerning the leader of Golden Dawn, the witness said that “he is the secret voice of the blood. The Fuhrer protects the law, as Carl Schmitt wrote. The leader is considered inviolable, he assumes metaphysical dimensions, he is the nation incarnate. Rudolph Hess had said that the Party is Hitler, and the same held for us. This connection is a part of the Nationalist-Socialist character of the party. I went into Golden Dawn because it was a Nazi organization. Would you dare say that what the leader said is wrong?”

The witness went on to say that after his preliminary testimony, Golden Dawn attempted to discredit him saying he had mental problems, something that has happened with other prominent members, such as Periandros. He described an attempt at slander, ordered from above, in August 2012, from people of his electoral district such as Chrysomallis.

He also described how the party decreed that Golden Dawners should have a uniform mode of dress, consisting of a cap, camo pants, and t-shirt. Finally, when asked of his opinion about the charges that have been brought against Golden Dawn in this court, the witness said that he is not the person to judge the matter.

Responding to questions by the state prosecutor he said that the goal of Golden Dawn is a Nationalist-Socialist state, as Kasidiaris had said, to gather 180 MPs and change the Constitution. The witness said that he didn’t know Fyssas, but believes that if he engaged in antifascist activity, then he would have been a target for the local chapter, and that Roupakias had been introduced to him by Barekas. He stressed that the murder of Fyssas played absolutely no role in his decision to leave Golden Dawn.

Responding to a question by a member of the court, Stavrou responded that the political responsibility for the murder of Fyssas was assumed only later, but which, according to the witness, resulted only in a loss of votes.
Responding to a question by the assistant state prosecutor he said that on the night of the murder of Fyssas he was at home and he was informed of the matter the next day by Iliopoulos. He didn’t try to learn more, but he did say that there was a disquiet evident in the ranks of the party. The witness went on to say that he is certain that the attack carried out against a cafe in Veria had been sanctioned by a higher-up of Sachinidis.

Responding to a question by a member of the court, the witness said that the reason that he left Golden Dawn was because his connection to the party was fraying, due to the stance of the leading members of Golden Dawn against criminal activities, and that he has now changed, his views are those of the far-right.

Before the civil action counsels took the floor, defense counsel Michalolias T. motioned to call Toliopoulos to be cross-examined with witness Stavrou, however the state prosecutor reserved her judgment.

Finally, the witness responded to questions by the civil action counsels and said that Roupakias wasn’t a random person in Piraeus, and that in the ceremony to be sworn in there are the new members and the person who swears them in, who is a superior. He also said that the local chapter council must follow the orders of the central leadership, according to a relevant circular, and described other circulars that mention the Fuhrer Principle, as well as the metaphysical dimension of the leader, which he saw in a document on Tsakiris’ desk.

Stavrou also mentioned an article on Hitler that had been written by Kasidiaris on April 20th, 2011, the birthday of Hitler, when they also had a cake, as he said, and stated that there was also a Golden Dawn decree about ideological matters, which they had received when they were in the cells.

Concerning the infiltration of the ranks of police he said that the Golden Dawners felt a kinship, meaning “that the cops wouldn’t hurt them”, and it was known that a significant part of the police force espoused the positions of Golden Dawn. Finally, he said that Golden Dawn held above everything else the idea of Nationalism-Socialism, and that in discussions the Christian religion was mentioned as Judeo-Christianity, in order to stress the fact that it had a Jewish provenance.