185th Hearing, Court of Appeals, October 2nd, 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.
II. Presence and representation of the defendants
None of the defendants was present at the hearing.
The hearing started with the testimony of witness Georgios Christopoulos, former mayor of Rafina-Pikermi, and continued with the testimony of witness Dimitrios Psarras, a journalist for the newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton.
ΙV. Testimony of witness G. Christopoulou
A. Examination of the witness by the court
The witness stated that he is a doctor, and that he was a mayor of the Rafina-Pikermi municipality from 2010 to 2014. The municipality hosts a celebration every year on September 8th to commemorate the Holy Mother’s birthday. In 2012 they had invited the Metropolitans of Proussa and Alexandroupoli, as well as the New Democracy MPs Bouras and Vlachos. The former mayor stated that the municipality had issued permits to street sellers to erect 26-28 stalls and everyone there had the relevant permit on the day in question.
On the eve of the celebration, the witness was inside the church with some of the invited dignitaries, along with a police unit. Outside there were no policemen apart from those that kept the entrance to the church accessible.
When the mayor with his guests went out and stood on the steps of the church, the witness saw in the crowd a group of Golden Dawners consisting of 15-20 people in ranks, who wore black t-shirts and held Greek flags. The mayor said that he went near and asked them if they were going to follow the procession and asked them not to cause any trouble. They followed the procession up to a point and then dispersed. While he was still following the procession, he was informed by a local blog of Rafina that some Golden Dawners had caused an incident with some immigrants and had kicked over their stalls. Christopoulos sent there a deputy mayor with one other person, and he later watched the incident in the news. The stories in the news showed the Golden Dawners asking the immigrants for their permits. The latter refused to show them and the Golden Dawners smashed their stalls.
The witness stated that he saw on TV Iliopoulos, who was at the stalls, and he was later told by members of the municipal council that Germenis had also been present. Responding to a relevant question he said that Golden Dawn had at some point opened a local chapter in Rafina but they were never very active, and for the past 3-4 years the local chapter is closed.
He said that the municipal authorities issued a press release which was voted unanimously. When asked about a complaint he had received about Golden Dawn making threatening phone calls to the principals of the kindergartens in the area, the witness stated that he couldn’t recall such a thing.
Responding to questions by the state prosecutor, he said that on TV it seemed as if Iliopoulos was the one giving the orders. He also said that there weren’t any other incidents like it in Rafina, the only similar thing was a Golden Dawn rally whose members were carrying Greek flags, a rally which the witness said was “peaceful”. Responding to insistent questions by the presiding judge and the state prosecutors about the threatening phone calls Golden Dawn had made to the kindergarten principals, in order to turn away from the schools the children of immigrants, he said that the complaint was transferred to him by the relevant deputy mayor, but the witness did nothing about it, since, as he said, the kindergartens had only children from India who had already been given the Greek citizenship. Besides, the kindergartens were safely protected behind high fences, and were in the center of the town. The witness didn’t estimate the danger level of the threatening phone calls, since he himself was receiving threats without knowing who it was that made them.
He went on to answer to a question by the assistant state prosecutor by saying that it was the Metropolitan of Proussa that was scared as he was coming out of the church, not himself. He also said that what happened was disrespectful towards the great celebration of the township and that [:the Golden Dawners], because they asked for the permits, tried to act as a substitute for the State.
B. Examination of the witness by the civil action counsels
The witness answered in turn to questions by civil action counsels Stratis, Malagaris, Papadopoulou, Kabagiannis, and Skarmeas.
Responding to a relevant question, Christopoulos said that they kicked over the stalls to make the immigrants show their permits, as the deputy mayor that went there told him. An immigrant told the deputy mayor that they didn’t leave him enough time to show them the permit. The witness also said that he didn’t see Iliopoulos stopping the Golden Dawners from kicking over the stalls, and that Golden Dawn did not formally apologize for the incident.
He said that two stalls were smashed, but the TV channels blew it all out of proportion, and clarified that the Golden Dawners were waving black flags, but most of them were waving Greek flags.
The witness was then showed photos in which he identified Iliopoulos and Germenis on the day in question, and also said that there was only one group of Golden Dawners who was present outside the church and then at the incident. The witness said that the police was present and that the Police Director of the local police station received a month’s suspension, because the Minister of Public Order at the time, Minister Dendias, thought that she should have been outside the church. The mayor himself had asked her to stand next to him inside the church. Finally, Christopoulos thought it was only by chance that the Golden Dawners kicked over the stalls of immigrants and not Greeks’, and when asked what are the positions of Golden Dawn on the immigrant issue, he said that all parties have a problem with illegal immigrants.
C. Examination of the witness by the defense counsels
The witness answered in turn to questions by defense counsels Mataliotakis, Aggeletos, Oplantzakis, Papadellis, Tzebetzis, Roussopoulos, and Mammis.
The former mayor said that out of 26-28 stalls, immigrants had ten of them, and that Golden Dawners kicked over two of them. The witness thought that the TV channels blew the whole thing all out of proportion in order to increase their ratings.
V. Testimony of witness Dimitrios Psarras
A. Examination of the witness by the court
The witness stated that he has been a journalist since 1983, initially at Scholiastis magazine, then from 1990 in the newspaper Eleftherotypia, and today he is working for the newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton.
The witness stated that Golden Dawn was founded in 1980 by Michaloliakos as a closed circle of Nationalist-Socialists. The magazine Golden Dawn came out in December 1980 and ran for 13 issues. The magazine’s content was clearly Nazi, mentioning Goebbels and Hitler, and using Nationalist-Socialist symbols. Apart from Michaloliakos, this closed circle numbered among its members Ioannis Giannopoulos, who had been in the Plevris’ “4th of August” party, Pappas, and Aristidis Kalentzis, who wrote articles for the magazine from prison. Michaloliakos discontinued the magazine in 1983 because he felt he was in danger of ending up in court, given that he had already been arrested and convicted for possession of explosives and attacks on cinema theaters, and he had been accused of inciting violence in the funeral of Mallios, but the case never made it to court, because the statute of limitations expired. In this climate, he closed down the magazine, following the advice of his brother, Michalolias, and ran away to South Africa.
Responding to a question by the presiding judge, whether Golden Dawn was extant at the time, Psarras said “There is no Golden Dawn without Michaloliakos. Michaloliakos is Golden Dawn”, and went on to explain that the organization operates according to the principle of the leader (a translation of the German “Führerprinzip”)
In December 1984 Michaloliakos joined and became the first president of [former dictator of Greece] Papadopoulos’ EPEN youth league, but he left in 1985 due to internal strife. He once more started the magazine and tried to make a small-scale copy of Hitler’s assault squads. He slowly tried to implement that model, saying that “We won’t merely study the Mein Kampf but we will go out on the streets to hunt down our enemies”. According to the witness, from time to time, enemies of the organization have included leftists, anarchists, immigrants, people of color, and the entire political system. The witness went on to say: “Golden Dawn doesn’t target specific people, but traits, for example someone that looks like an anarchist, someone who looks like a Pakistani and has no business being in our country. They will never target anyone famous. They want to send a symbolic message, that they are strong, that they have the power”.
The witness maintained that the organization’s ideology has remained unchanged since 1987, citing Michaloliakos who, when he was arrested, said that “we have no connection to Nationalism-Socialism”, and when he came out he shouted to his followers “Hail victory”, which for those in the know means “Sieg Heil”. He also said that Golden Dawn can’t practice politics without public violence, and cited the statements of Michaloliakos in Thermopylae about bayonettes and assault squads, statements that steeled his supporters.
Golden Dawn commenced its public activity in 1990, when Psarras started following it closely as a journalist. They started coming out of their headquarters, first by writing Nazi slogans on walls and then, with the pretense of the rally for the Macedonian issue in 1992, they attacked a group of anarchists in the University of Thessaloniki.
Psarras brought up Golden Dawn’s memorandum of association, which he had testified about in his preliminary testimonies, and said that it had been sent to the magazine he was working then, Scholiastis, along with other documents (a declaration, among other things). Golden Dawn sent it because of an article that the magazine had run, and included a lengthy response, which the magazine declined to print. The witness went on to say that the memorandum of association that Golden Dawn deposited to the Supreme Court in 2012 was different, because they wanted to cover their tracks, given that the first memorandum reveals the structure and the character of the organization and includes a lengthy paragraph about the principle of the leader, which incriminates the leader. The witness also said that he has brought today with him the initial memorandum bearing the Golden Dawn stamp. The witness said that excerpts from the memorandum were published in October 1990 in the Sunday Eleftherotypia and in a feature about fascists in 1998, because of the Periandros case. Golden Dawn never gave any reaction to these articles, but neither to the witness’s book about the organization, which was published in 2012. The memorandum caused concern only after the arrests.
The witness went on to analyze the organization’s structure and said that on the one hand it is divided in two parts, the political and the operational, but as the memorandum shows they both have the same leadership, something which is attested by the organizational chart recovered from the house of Pappas in Giannena, which specifically mentions the memorandum and the rules of procedure. The witness has this to say about Michaloliakos: “He doesn’t participate in the violent, nocturnal attacks because he must remain inviolate, he is above the others and embodies the people. The people have put him there at the top, in the same way that the people had put Hitler to power”.
Psarras said that this knowledge comes not only from the memorandum and the activities of Golden Dawn, but from everything that has been written about the organization by its former members, such as Filippou and Kousoumvris, which were expendable lieutenants, as he called them, and added the names of Periandros, Giannopoulos, and Zafeiropoulos, who left the organization in haste when they came too close to be a threat to the leader.
Psarras claimed that in every criminal activity of Golden Dawn from 1992 and up to the cases of Fyssas and Zervas, the leader commands and stays in the shadows. The witness stressed that in the summer of 2013 Golden Dawn felt that they enjoyed a kind of immunity by the political establishment and the media. And even though Michaloliakos was saying that “we don’t want to enter Parliament, we don’t want the Constitution. When I put my hand on the Bible I said nothing [:meaning he didn’t take the oath along with the other MPs], it was shown that the entry to Parliament was the first step. The second, according to the witness, was what Panagiotaros described for the BBC: “A civil war rages in Greece, on the one hand are the nationalists and on the other the political establishment, the immigrants, the leftists, the internationalists”. According to Psarras, this was the declaration of a low-grade war. It’s not by chance that inside of a week various symbolic attacks were carried out, such as the one on PAME. The witness insisted that all the attacks are carried out after an order by the leader. Nothing can be done without an order from above, and whoever does so is ousted, such as the lieutenants. After Kasidiaris slapped [KKE MP] Kanelli on TV, the leader of the Nikaia chapter told an assault squad “Do you think that we’ll lose anything from that? The polls show that we are up two percent”, and Kasidiaris said that “the good stuff is done at night”. Koukoutsis said “we are a phalanx, that’s our structure”. They believe that they are the torchbearers of Hitler’s legacy.
Psarras said that the members are trained, and use as weapons knives, wooden beams, and other custom-made implements, and claimed that they also have guns, which they haven’t used against their enemies, but keep them ready for the next phase, the civil war, that never came about because the state stopped them. They had a strategy of tension in order to cause e.g. the left to attack Golden Dawn. That was the reason why there was an escalation of violence in the fall of 2013. The violent attacks against PAME, in Meligalas against right-wingers and nationalists, and then the Fyssas murder could have lead to different outcomes.
The witness spoke about the military structure of the organization, and said that the memorandum lists six ranks of a military type, the highest being the phalanx leader, and the cells have their cell leaders. These are the elements of an absolute military structure.
The witness went on to say that the organization believes that what will gain it support is violence, and that Michaloliakos isn’t naive to talk publicly about bayonettes sharpened on the sidewalks (which is a line from the official anthem of the SS). The witness also spoke about the pamphlet “Protesilaos Group” which he has brought to the attention of the authorities and which deals with the style of the training, and with the training camps, which follow a military approach to training.
According to the witness, the targets of Golden Dawn aren’t people like himself, since the organization targets mostly anonymous people at night, which symbolize certain things. He said that Golden Dawn doesn’t follow Mussolini, but Hitler, since Nazism is based on race, and that’s why Michaloliakos said “we go by the unity of race, the Greek blood”. The “People’s League” [:a part of Golden Dawn’s official name] derives from the German “Völkische Bund”.
He said that Golden Dawn divides people in two categories: Aryans, and everyone else. They chose as their logo the lopsided Ψ, which was used by certain units of the SS, but also by the brigade that entered Distomo. “Simply put, they are supporters of German nationalism, they could never set down a Greek nationalist movement. They shot a video in a concert in 2006 with some Germans of the same ideology, which shows Nazi flags, and they sing the anthem ‘Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles'”.
Responding to another question the witness stated that the assault squads are a translation of the German term “Sturmabteilung”, and referred to a book titled “Strike team – Lance”, which has been shown to have been written by Michaloliakos and is a copy of the Turner Diaries, a book by William Pierce [:the leader of US white supremacist organization National Alliance]. The witness talked about the uniform clothing of the assault squads and said that it is used to tell who’s on their side, like in the army, and to make them feel part of a group, but also to make identification by witnesses more difficult.
When asked whether Golden Dawn is a criminal organization, Psarras said that indeed it is and that was started as such and now uses the guise of political party. The persons he named as members of this criminal organization were the leader, the members of the political council, the district leaders, and included a few members such as Roupakias. Concerning the MPs he said that they are all chosen by the leader and know about every crime, but they could have varying degrees of participation in each one.
He repeated his preliminary testimony about the persons that he thinks play a central role in the organization, and added the name of Germenis. According to Psarras, Pappas is the second-in-command from way back, is well read in Nazi ideology, while the rest are operational lieutenants (Kasidiaris, Lagos, and Panagiotaros).
Responding to questions by the state prosecutor Psarras said that the memorandum that Golden Dawn presented to the authorities following the 2012 election does not include the rules of procedure, neither the principle of the leader and the various cells. The first memorandum talked about Nazism and included an article about the protection of its members if they get into trouble for their political activities. When asked if Michaloliakos had any advance knowledge of the Fyssas murder, the witness stated that nothing gets done without an order from Michaloliakos. He also pointed out the failings of the police, and mentioned a report published in 2005 which said that the organization has ties with the police, and described rallies in which Golden Dawn was used as the rear guard of riot police units.
When asked by a member of the court how can we know that the memorandum that was sent to the magazine was authentic, Psarras said that the magazine published an article in 1988 that Golden Dawn not only did not deny, but confirmed in one of its announcements.
Responding to questions by the assistant state prosecutor, Psarras said that the leader has the final say in everything, and that everyone answers to the leader.
B. Examination of the witness by the civil action counsels
The witness was examined in turn by civil action counsels Sapountzakis, Papadakis, and Kabagiannis. Responding to relevant questions the witness stated that when Golden Dawners talk about nationalism they mean German Nazism, and that he believes they are enemies of Greece. The witness also said that the relation of Golden Dawn to Christianity is cursory, and there are articles in their youth league magazine which mention that they view Christianity through Nazism. Psarras said that the inertia of the police can be attributed to the ties with Golden Dawn and to the fact that, as a legitimate political party, Golden Dawn was covered, because they espoused an ideology that could be prosecuted in a court of law. The police had no strategy to deal with the problem, but instead chose to ignore what was happening.
Responding to another question he said that on the eve of the attack on the Egyptian fishermen, Lagos had made a public statement that Golden Dawn assumes the responsibility to “clean up” the area of immigrants, and Lagos is always in the company of Michaloliakos. Psarras repeated that when someone acts without an order, he finds himself outside the ranks of the organization, and when shown photos he identified the rules of procedure and the organizational chart that was found in the house of Pappas, which bore the same stamp as the one on the declaration he was sent.
The witness also stated that the organizations draws its new members from the special forces, from youths that are inspired by messages of violence, and from football supporter clubs, such as Panagiotaros’ “Blue Army”, which had participated in anti-imigrant pogroms after football matches between Greece and Albania.
Finally, he talked about a document running to sixteen pages, which dealt with “tactical matters” and can be traced back to 1987, and said that Golden Dawn doesn’t defend to take revenge, only retaliates.
The witness will conclude his testimony in the Women’s Wing of Korydallos Prison on October 4th, 2017.