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DAY 217: “the use of violence by this particular nationalist-socialist party is congenital”

217th Hearing, Women’s Wing, Korydallos Prison, January 23rd, 2018

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, until all audience seats in the courtroom are filled. There were many journalists and spectators in court today.

II. Presence of defendants

None of the defendants was present at the hearing.

III. Testimony of witness Spyros Lykoudis

A. Examination by the members of the court

In the past, the witness has served as a MP as well as the vice-president of the Greek Parliament. In July 2012 he was a MP with DIMAR. Concerning the activity of Golden Dawn, he has never been the victim of an attack. He has, though, personal experience of the way that Golden Dawn operates inside and outside the Parliament. Outside Parliament, since 2011, when he became a member of DIMAR, their offices were very near to those of Golden Dawn. So he bumped into members, prominent or not, of Golden Dawn –whom he recognized from their clothes and the symbols they were wearing– who had an activity quite different from that of other parties. They were “hunting immigrants” in Agiou Konstantinou Ave. – at the very least harassing them verbally.

According to the witness, that time –the first days of the financial crisis– was difficult for everyone. But Golden Dawn was operating in that same framework in a very special way. In Parliament they appeared as a military unit, something that does not become a democratic Parliament. While a certain degree of confrontation is useful in Parliament in a political way, Golden Dawn behaved as if they were in combat with enemies: “They were behaving like MPs against the system that brought them into Parliament”. The witness recalled that Zaroulia had called immigrants “sub-humans” in Parliament. Golden Dawn MPs obey an internal discipline that has a single-minded focus on hierarchy. According to the witness, “it was a novelty in Parliament to watch a group of MPs enter and leave as one person”.

When asked whether the behavior of Golden Dawn, as he experienced it in Parliament, has anything to do with the current trial, the witness stated that “if a political party tries to get its message across along an axis of hate and it convinces me, as a citizen, it’s very easy for me to commit criminal acts and to try to rid society from immigrants or dissidents. […] The message was so hateful that if a citizen was convinced then he or she wouldn’t have even the slightest compunction. His reaction would be extremely violent.” The witness added that the Golden Dawn MPs “drive […]the gullible to extreme behavior, and this is a big problem”.

The witness believes that, by assuming the political responsibility for the murder of P. Fyssas, Michaloliakos did not condemn the act, but accepted it. According to the witness, the Golden Dawn MPs changed their behavior after the murder of P. Fyssas. In a way, “the unjust death of this young man changed the rules”. Even today, though, their behavior is “very extreme” and goes beyond what is parliamentary acceptable, verging on political harassment.

B. Examination of the witness by the civil action counsels

The witness answered questions in turn by civil action counsels Sapountzakis, Theodoropoulos, Tobatzoglou, Tzellis, and Kabagiannis.

The witness stated that the attack on the PAME members in the Perama Shipping Yards was a double hit: against the unionists and against members and supporters of the KKE [:CPGR]. The witness has a general knowledge of similar incidents. According to him, the Golden Dawners show unbending loyalty to the leader, their cells, etc., as they themselves have stated, and thus it is unthinkable that Golden Dawn has no connection with the attacks perpetrated by its members. In this framework, “the leadership cannot be absolved of responsibility”. Following the murder of P. Fyssas the behavior of Golden Dawners changed because their leadership was afraid that “the situation was beyond their control and would end badly for them”.

C. Examination of the witness by the defense counsels

The witness answered questions in turn by defense counsels Tsagas, Michalolias G., Alexiadis, and Oplantzakis.
When asked the witness stated everything that he knows about the organization of Golden Dawn (that it has a leader, cells, members that show blind obedience), he knows all this from the media and from what he has seen in Parliament. He made a distinction between Golden Dawn and the rest of the parties, because he said that “they have a definite structure, but there is no blind obedience to the leader”. He went on to say that the Golden Dawn MPs who resigned, did it because they couldn’t bear this state of affairs.

IV. Testimony of witness Panagiotis Rigas

A. Examination by the members of the court

The witness works as an employee at a company. He was a MP with PASOK in the Cyclades electoral region from 2004 to 2014. He has never been attacked by members of Golden Dawn. His knowledge of the crimes under trial comes from the media and from debates in the Greek Parliament. He took a particular interest in these crimes during the time he was the secretary of the PASOK parliamentary group, from 2013 to 2014.

According to the witness, the behavior of Golden Dawn in Parliament has been shocking and never before seen. These weren’t isolated incidents popping up from time to time, but something very different. Speaking about immigrants, Zaroulia talked about “disease-bearing sub-humans who will infect the populace”. They were talking about a “dirty political system”, and that “you’ve seen nothing yet”. This wasn’t a party that entered Parliament and didn’t know how to behave, it was a party with radically different characteristics. The Golden Dawn MPs formed ranks according to their place in the hierarchy. First to enter the hall was always Michaloliakos and then the rest of the MPs followed in a military manner. Furthermore, the Golden Dawn MPs did not frequent the spots favored by other MPs (the canteen etc.) They were very united in everything, at least until the end of 2013. Now this has changed somewhat.

According to the witness, the Golden Dawn MPs were behaving in this way to show that they don’t “dig” the Parliament, they wanted to make their presence felt, and to cause awe to the rest of the MPs in order to be “reckoned”. This awe aimed to impress their own people, their own members. In this way they showed that “they are mighty. It was a signal, they didn’t just do it to make an impression.” What they wanted was to show that they would strike at the heart of the “dirty system”. Now that they had parliamentary immunity, this would be transferred to the simple members and they would do what they wanted.

The witness stated that Golden Dawn is a paramilitary-criminal organization because as time passed, from the benefit of his position and watching closely what was reported in the media, he saw that they invaded various events, they attacked their political opponents, culminating in the attacks against the Shipping Yards workers, the fishermen, and the murder of P. Fyssas. This activity is connected to the entry of Golden Dawn in parliament, which was when its members became completely unreined, and with the fact that the State was very slow in doing something to counter this phenomenon.

In the case of P. Fyssas, the behavior of the members of Golden Dawn is connected to Golden Dawn because of the planning of the attack, which was proven by reports in the media. According to the witness, “the leader could have not known that somebody would be killed […] But here we have a modus operandi that shows that nothing can be done without the go-ahead by your cell leader and the leader. The witness believes that the Golden Dawn district commander had full prior knowledge of the attack against the PAME members.

B. Examination of the witness by the civil action counsels

The witness answered questions in turn by civil action counsels Sapountzakis, Theodoropoulos, Stratis, Antanasiotis, Malagaris, Tzellis, Papadopoulou, Tobatzoglou, and Kabagiannis.

The witness stated that in his opinion Golden Dawn has different levels: Its parliamentary arm, but also others – such as the assault squads. “They aim to intimidate, to crush. They not only scare someone but have also used crowbars etc. to crush their opponents, causing bodily harm and death and many other things”. According to the witness, concerning the attack on the PAME members, “no action of such importance can be put into effect without the full knowledge of the leadership”. He can’t say whether they called the leader right at that time and told him “this happens now”, but he believes that “there was full knowledge and authorization”. The Golden Dawn MPs on the other hand “by accepting the activities of their members and by rewarding it, have also taken part in this criminal organization.” When asked whether the motives behind these attacks are personal, the witness stressed that “the use of violence by this particular nationalist-socialist party is congenital”. The violence aims at “intimidating people. Their ultimate goal is the seizure of power through violence.” The witness compared Golden Dawn with LAOS and said that the latter party also held extreme views and its MPs many times were verging on the ridiculous, but they operated in a completely different manner than Golden Dawn.

C. Examination of the witness by the defense counsels

The witness was examined in turn by defense counsels Pantazis, Dimitrakopoulos, Oplantzakis, Michalolias G., and Alexiadis.

When asked, the witness stated that in all incidents there is an executive group, the liaison with the district commander, who he believes is fully authorized by the leader. Furthermore, he believes that the statements by Alexopoulos and Boukouras in 2014 concerning the criminal organization were made because of how things were proceeding. But he didn’t hear them in Parliament condemn any of the actions [of Golden Dawn]. They merely tried to separate the instigators from the perpetrators. Furthermore, according to the witness “there is no other party that comes into parliament as a military unit”. The various slogans, such as “Hail victory”, “we are the seed of the vanquished of ‘45”, the salute, all these have caused him to believe this is nationalist-socialist party. This also would explain the violent crimes for which Golden Dawn is put on trial.

At this point the presiding judge adjourned for January 25th, 2018, in the Women’s Wing of Korydallos Prison, where the trial will continue with the examination of the PAME members civil action witness Stelios Benetatos and the comments of the civil action witnesses by the counsels under article 358 CCP.