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Day 184: The attacks illustrated the ideology of Golden Dawn

184th Hearing, Women’s Wing, Korydallos Prison, September 28th, 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 started with a motion by civil action counsel Papadakis (for the Egyptian fishermen). He called upon the protected witness, who are expected to testify anonymously via telephone, to come and testify publicly of their own free will. He went on to say that the civil action respects the fear of the witnesses, but maintained that the anonymous testimonies stand against the publicity that this trial has taken. He ended his motion by saying that, should the witnesses testify anonymously, the civil action counsels for the Egyptian fishermen will decline to examine them. The same was stated by civil action counsel Tzelis (for the Fyssas family), and civil action counsel Vrettos (for the PAME members).
The presiding judge informed the participants in this trial that when the last witness has been examined, then the comments on the witness testimonies will begin, and the protected witnesses will testify after the comments.
The next witness was then called to the stand, Anastasios Yfantis, a social worker for “Doctors of the World” (Médecins du Monde – Greece), and G. Tsimboukakis, a former member of the municipal council of Agia Paraskevi.

ΙV. Testimony of witness Anastasios Yfantis

A. Examination of the witness by the court

Responding to questions by the presiding judge, Yfantis stated that he works as a social worker in the organization “Doctors of the World” (MdM) since 2012. The organization works with vulnerable groups such as Roma, homeless Greeks, immigrants, and persons who face obstacles in accessing health services. At first he worked in mobile units, but he is now in charge of coordination. The witness also said that the organization itself provides social services to the people in need, and they relegate them to the “Greek Council for Refugees” (GCR) for legal assistance. The people who visit the clinic are both immigrants and Greeks, who face a health problem of some kind. Among them have been victims of racist violence. The MdM compiles a complete medical and social history of the person involved, but they keep anonymous records for racist attacks, which were sent to the “Racist Violence Recording Network” (RVRN).
The witness stated that in the period 2011-2013 they had recorded many instances of racist violence against immigrants in the center of Athens. The MdM relegated the incidents to the GCR for legal support and tracked the judicial course of the various cases. As he said, there was a “joint venture” between GCR, MdM, and the “National Commission for Human Rights”.

In some instances the perpetrators were convicted, as in an attack against an Albanian woman, who told them that the assailants were Golden Dawners. The victims were from various countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, sub-Saharan Africa, etc. The attacks shared a few common characteristics. The victims recounted attacks by groups of Greeks who wore military clothing, who approached the victim to check his or her papers, and then tore up the papers, and the attack started in earnest with clubs, bottles, tasers, etc. The assailants were always more than two, and there were attacks by more than 20 people, and even more, such as an attack by a group of more than 100 people against immigrant establishments. The witness referred to an attack that took place in 2012 in a shop in Acharnon Avenue, which was frequented primarily by Iranian and Afghan customers, when a group of Golden Dawners came in and trashed the whole shop.

The witness also referred to a shared report compiled by MdM and GCR concerning racist violence, that was released in 2014 and is available to download from the organization’s official site. When asked about the weapons used in the attacks, the witness stated that there had been reports from Amerikis Square about attacks that used a black dog, but they also used expandable batons, baseball bats, and glass bottles. The witness also described an attack on a homeless person in Koliatsou Square by a group of men on motorbikes.

Responding to a question by the presiding judge, he said that the victims are more often immigrants, homeless persons, most of them either asylum seekers or without papers, something that put them in more risk, given that they couldn’t report the attacks on their person. One volunteer for MdM was attacked in 2012 in a bus by people who asked to see his papers and then insulted him because he was an Albanian. The victim was too scared to report the incident, and Yfantis noted that MdM would never publicize a complaint without the express agreement of the victim.

The witness went on to state that a homeless immigrant who was living with others in a tunnel in Larissis Station told him that people riding in two Fiat Unos were checking the papers of immigrants and then attacking them. Also, an MdM mobile unit in which he participated was verbally attacked in 2012 in the same area by a rally numbering 50-60 motorbikes, whose riders were waving Greek flags as well as flags with the Golden Dawn logo. The Golden Dawners called them “Traitors of Greece, you help these dirty bastards, fuck off.” One of his colleagues, who was Nigerian was so scared that she hid in the van. But even the MdM clinic in Perama had closed down after a rally of Golden Dawners passed outside, since there was at the time a climate of fear.

Responding to a relevant question the witness stated that during the period 2011-2013 there were days when they counted five victims [:of racist violence]. He noted that most of the attacks took place under cover of night along Acharnon Avenue and then in Kolonos, a quarter where many immigrants reside.

Responding to questions by the state prosecutor the witness stated that in MdM they had treated two minors without a guardian and one who was accompanied by his father. One of the two unaccompanied ones was only fourteen years old and had been seriously injured on the face with a broken bottle. They called the attention of the state prosecutor to the case, a complaint was lodged, and the police came. The witness stated that he was told that women participated in some attacks in Amerikis Square, but as a rule they assailants were mostly young men. The witness also described two attacks in Patra and three in Thessaloniki during the same period.

Responding to questions by the deputy state prosecutor, the witness repeated that in the winter of 2013 there was a general climate of fear, especially because Golden Dawn was in parliament, and there was an increase in the volume and the intensity of incidents, and his clients were telling him “I don’t go out of the house because I’m scared”.

B. Examination by the civil action counsels

It was the turn of civil action counsels to examine the witness: Theodoropoulos, Vrettos, Stratis, Tzelis, Papadopoulou, Tobatzoglou, Skarmeas, and Papadakis. Yfantis stated that the MdM records started prior to the articles and arrests, and maintained that the attacks on one hand illustrated the ideology of Golden Dawn, which urged the driving out of immigrants from Greece, and on the other hand permitted the party’s members to “practice”. There was a quite specific modus operandi, a coordination, and judging by everything that followed and came to light, the witness said that the attacks were not the initiative of isolated individuals. He labeled the Golden Dawn ideology as “Nazi”, since they speak about Jews and immigrants using words such as “sub-humans” and “scum”.

The witness went on to say that in the attack against Mrs. Manti (an Albanian woman who is one of his clients) the perpetrators, members of Golden Dawn, were identified and convicted. The witness stated that every incident under deliberation is an implementation of a rhetoric of hate, since they urge towards acts of violence against immigrants. Responding to a question about whether there was a coordination among the assailants, the witness stated that the victims said that some people were hitting and others were merely observing, and clarified that in the MdM report, when they mentioned an “organization” they meant Golden Dawn, however they never referred explicitly to it, because no arrests had been made and it had just entered Parliament. The witness also said that MdM recorded 120 incidents of racist violence in Athens during 2011-2013, and the RVRN recorded over 350 in the center of Athens alone. The witness also said that the behavior of the police regarding both complaints and attacks was that of indolence.

C. Examination by the defense counsels

The witness was examined in turn by defense counsels Michalolias T., Zografos, Velentza, Oplantzakis, Michalolias G., and Roussopoulos. He said that Golden Dawn organized food charities only for Greeks, whereas MdM, the municipal authorities, and other organizations, made food available to everyone, adding that MdM have accommodated Greeks in their facilities. The witness also pointed out that the recording of violent incidents by the MdM started prior to the voting of the law that granted residency permits to the victims of racist violence that pressed charges. He also said that there were victims that had said that some people were hitting and others were observing, and then said “Let’s go, we’ve finished here”.

V. Testimony of witness Georgios Tsimboukakis

A. Examination of the witness by the court

Responding to questions by the presiding judge, the witness stated that he is an office worker and that he was elected in the Agia Paraskevi municipal council with KKE in the municipal elections of 2010. He was called by the investigators to testify because he pressed charges against Evaggelos Stefanakis after the latter attacked him. Stefanakis was convicted to 37 months in prison for grievous bodily harm and possession of illegal weapons just this past July, when he was already serving a life sentence for an unconnected murder, which was reduced in the Appeals Court to 20 years.

Tsiboukakis went on to describe the attack against his person: in the evening of June 12th, 2012, he was in a KKE election booth in the Agia Paraskevi main square, and right nearby were the booths of ANTARSYA and PASOK. ND’s booth was a bit further away. The booths were well attended, KKE’s was staffed by five people. A car stopped and 3 or 4 people came out, aged 25-30, and one of them was holding a pit bull from a leash. One of them had evident spiderweb tattoos [:meaning he had done prison time] and all had close-cropped hair. They made a round of the square and stopped in front of the KKE booth; one held the dog, and the other shouted “You fucking commies, get lost, you’ll die here”, and started drenching the megaphone, which was playing chants and slogans, with a large plastic water gun. The witness came out of the booth to tell them to leave. The assailant then started bashing the water gun on the witness’s forehead. The water gun shattered into pieces which the doctors later had to take out of the witness’s forehead. People came out of the surrounding booths in order to immobilize the assailant. When someone proposed to call the police, Stefanakis flew into a rage and took out of his pocket a metal instrument, which the witnesses later confirmed was a pair of brass knuckles. The witness was then punched on the head with it and Stefanakis left by saying “This isn’t over, you’ll see who Ilias is”, and other witnesses said that he gestured towards the policemen that were in Mesogeion Avenue at the time.

The witness had a torn brow and was taken to Evaggelismos Hospital by ambulance, where when he was asked who had done this to him he said “fascists”. The doctor and orderlies told him “You’re not the only one, there are many like you in the past few days, not to mention immigrants, and we hope you’re the last”. The next day he went and pressed charges in the police station of Agia Paraskevi, where he handed over a mobile phone that was found on the scene of the assault as well as the shirt of the perpetrator, and gave a full description of both men. That same afternoon the police officer showed him a photo of Stefanakis, who according to the officer was known to the authorities. He also referred to an interview of Stefanakis’ father, who had said that his kids wore Golden Dawn t-shirts and that the younger one had participated in food charities and in the events at Thermopylae.

The next day KKE issued a press release mentioning fascists, but without mentioning Golden Dawn, since the assailants didn’t bear G.D. insignia, although the previous night the Egyptian fishermen had been attacked, and a month before Liana Kanelli [:had been slapped on TV by Kasidiaris]. Tsiboukakis also said that most of the people present thought that the phrase “I’ll show you who Ilias is” referred to Kasidiaris, who was at the forefront back then, and many people were saying “Bless his hand for slapping Kanelli”.

Responding to questions by the state prosecutor he said that he did not know the assailant personally, and maintained that it was an assault organized by Golden Dawn, because their “love” for communists is well known.
Responding to a relevant question by the deputy state prosecutor, the witness said that fascists won’t sit and discuss and that the interview of the father of the assailant was one more piece of evidence, which pointed that he had been attacked by Golden Dawn.

B. Examination by the civil action counsels

The witness was then examined in turn by civil action counsels Theodoropoulos, Vrettos, and Skarmeas. The witness stated that the Mayor mentioned the incident in the local press and that Stefanakis was a member of Golden Dawn, and that at the time Golden Dawn believed that they had had enough of their political opponents. Referring to the Egyptian fishermen, he said he has seen photos of the injured man with his face deformed by the beating.

C. Examination by the defense counsels
The witness was examined in turn by defense counsels Zografos, Velentza, Oplantzakis, Michalolias G., Mataliotakis, and Roussopoulos. The witness stated that he was hit with the water gun on the brow and that if someone wants to commit murder and is a trained boxer, he can do it with bare hands. When asked whether Stefanakis said anything about Golden Dawn in court, the witness said that Stefanakis didn’t even appear in court.
At this point the presiding judge adjourned for October 2nd, when witnesses Georgios Christopoulos and Dimitris Psarras are expected to testify.