Day 211: “Perpetrators of racist crimes enjoy what they do, they are not ashamed”

211st Hearing, Women’s Wing, Korydallos Prison, January 8th, 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. There was significant audience presence in the courtroom, but not many members of the press.

II. Presence and representation of the defendants

No defendants were present at this hearing.

ΙΙΙ. Proceedings

The trial continued with the examination of the next three witnesses for the civil action: Giorgos Pittas, a journalist for the newspaper “Workers’ Solidarity”; Dimitris Christopoulos, an assistant professor in Panteion University and President of the International Federation for Human Rights; and Panos Garganas, editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Workers’ Solidarity”.

ΙV. Testimony of witness G. Pittas

A. Examination by the members of the court

The witness stated that he works as a journalist for the newspaper “Workers’ Solidarity”. He testified that he had gone to cover the press release about the Egyptian fishermen and was extensively informed about what took place by the journalist Guy Smallman, who was reporting from the site of the attack, took photos, and visited Abuzheed in the hospital. The fishermen case was a major part of the documentary shot later by Guy Smallman concerning the attacks in Agios Panteleimonas, and the witness stated that they resembled the Kristallnacht in the ’30s. The witness was attacked on June 16th, 2000, when he was with a SEK group in Fokionos Negri, and an assault squad of 6-7 people approached them and after informing them that they were members of Golden Dawn, they harassed them, they took their printed material, and threatened them by saying that the area was their own turf.

On June 17th two attacks took place: One during a pamphlet handout in Omonoia Square and one in the Marxist Bookshop, where the witness’s brother was present as the managing editor, who went on to press charges. Adraskelas was identified as the head of the 6-strong team that attacked the bookshop, and he was convicted of damage to property. The witness went on to say that on June 30th, during a pamphlet handout in Kypseli to advertise an antiracist rally in July, he and the four people he was with, among them two women, were attacked by an organized group of 10 people, who stated that they were members of Golden Dawn and hit them with punches and kicks with steel-toed boots, causing the witness contusions in the head. The witness pressed charges and later read in the newspaper the names of the assailants: Adraskelas, the leader, was convicted of grievous bodily harm, along with Roumeliotis, who at the time was still a minor.

The witness stated that the organized method of the attack betrayed a specific plan, aiming to terrorize politically active groups, and stressed that the assault had many common characteristics with the attacks in the documentary, such as the motive, the violence, the momentary execution, and the greater number of assailants compared to the assaulted.

A. Examination by the civil action counsels

The witness was examined in turn by civil action counsels Papadakis, Kabagiannis, Skarmeas.
The witness stated that the attacks are not an aberration, but lie within the purview of the hierarchy and its orders; indicated as common characteristics of the attacks that had been convicted, the attacks in the documentary as well as the attack on the Egyptian fishermen, the following: the murderous drive, the military organization, the tolerance shown by the police, the participation of prominent members, the greater numbers of the assailants, the role of the leader in the propaganda of violence as a political tool. He also stated that the attacks increased after the institutional legalization of Golden Dawn, and that they target ideology and immigrants.

C. Examination by the defense counsels

The witness was examined by defense counsel Oplantzakis. Responding to a question about the connection between the Golden Dawn election results and the attack on Abuzheed, the witness stated that between 2010 and 2013 just the Pakistani community has recorded 1,000 incidents with similar characteristics.

Testimony of witness D. Christopoulos

A. Examination by the members of the court

The witness stated that he is an assistant professor of comparative politics in Panteion University and that as a vice-president of the Human League for Human Rights he has followed closely the recordings of the cases by the Recording Network for Racist Violence. He cleared up that the recordings eventually showed a specific model of criminal behavior which includes the statement of the perpetrators’ identity, and has the same method as the attack on the Egyptian fishermen. The witness said that the perpetrators of racist crimes enjoy what they do, they are not ashamed, they don’t wish to hide, they believe that they are on a historic mission. From the 350 attacks that have been recorded since 2011, about half of them have been attributed to Golden Dawn, and share common traits, such as: they are carried out at night; they target specific groups because of “what they are”, such as immigrants and persons active in the antifascist movement, by persons that are dressed in a specific way and bear specific logos, in the context of a specific military-style hierarchy.

Responding to a relevant question, the witness stated that the HLHR has sent many press releases to the pertinent ministries in order to bring this cases to court, but none were acknowledged. After the murder of Fyssas they issued a press release that named Golden Dawn as the culprit, with the intention to show that the attacks are carried out within the workings of a strict hierarchy, targeting specific groups of people, after decisions taken by the leadership, the leader, who “doesn’t get his hands dirty, his role is different”. The definition of targeted groups is a political choice, it is not something done by the perpetrators themselves but is defined in a broader scope, such as the case of Shahzat Luqman. The witness added that Golden Dawn implements a strategy of political tension, and one apposite example is the claim they made on the historical commemoration in Meligalas. Contrary to other European parties, Golden Dawn does not maintain a link between core party and criminal arm, but the criminal organization resides inside the core of the party.

A. Examination by the civil action counsels

The witness was examined in turn by civil action counsels Kabagiannis, Skarmeas, Papadakis, Vrettos, Sapountzakis, Papadopoulou, and Theodoropoulos.

Responding to a relevant question, the witness stated that even if an attack does not necessarily need a direct order by the leadership to be carried out, the attacks recorded by the RVRN took place in a specific context of orders and targeting, which includes the principle of anticommunism. Furthermore, he added that the police had not responded to the requests by HLHR, neither had they intervened in 2010 to prevent a threatening movement by members of Golden Dawn. Concerning the statement by Michaloliakos that he assumes the political responsibility for the murder of Fyssas, the witness stated it meant that “I state that I am politically responsible for the act, I cover it, the act lies within a framework of orders given by me.”

C. Examination by the defense counsels

The witness was examined in turn by defense counsels Tsagas, Oplantzakis, Michalolias T. Papadellis, Alexiadis, and Michalolias G.

Responding to a relevant question, the witness stated that the group that Fyssas was a member of had all the traits of group that would be a target of Golden Dawn. When asked how he equates the assuming of the political responsibility with instigation, the witness replied that the assuming of the responsibility was never taken back, that no one ever claimed any lapsus.

VI. Testimony of witness P. Garganas

A. Examination by the members of the court

The witness stated that in the past he was a visiting tutor engineer in the Athens Polytechnic and an editor-in-chief at the newspaper “Workers’ Solidarity”, a position which earned him many attacks and charges brought against his person by Golden Dawn. In 1992 the newspaper offices were attacked and in 1996 an assault squad attacked and injured in Fokionos Negri G. Vasilakou and N. Kourakis, an act for which Zafeiropoulos and Kousoumvris were identified as perpetrators and convicted. For the attack against K. Patrikiou in 2011, Giannogonas, a member of Golden Dawn, was also convicted. The witness, as editor-in-chief of the newspaper, learned that the groups that were targeted for attacks were immigrants and leftists, and the most recent example was the conviction of Zervas, the leader of the attack against A. Lazaris, a student, outside the Golden Dawn offices in Mesogeion. When asked, the witness responded that he finds common traits in the attacks: the military planning of the assault squads, the leader who gives the command, the immunity granted by the police, and the decisions taken by the leading members.

A. Examination by the civil action counsels

The witness was examined in turn by civil action counsels Papadakis, Kabagiannis, Malagaris, and Theodoropoulos.
When asked about the attack in the case of Giannogonas, the witness stated that his main goal was to drive out the leftist movement and the union movement from the areas of Kypseli and Petroupoli. The pamphlet handout was done in public, by a mixed group of men and women, without anything to defend themselves, and this group was vulnerable to the attack of the perpetrators who attacked them with wooden bats, who were also greater in number.

The number of similar attacks, who escalated after the parliamentary elections, as well as the pertinent convictions, according to the witness, show that the instigator of the attacks each time is the same, Golden Dawn, but also stressed that the people that went to the police were dissuaded to press charges, and gave the example of lawyer E. Kouniaki who met with extreme difficulty in the police station of Agios Panteleimonas when she went to press charges about some attacks. When asked, the witness stated that the hierarchy of Golden Dawn is imbued with Nazi values, so it follows the Führerprinzip, while also espousing a military discipline. The attacks are perpetrated in a specific context of recruiting and in the case of the attack against PAME, the witness said that it is an ideological attack on the values of unionism, and that it was not decided by the local chapter.

C. Examination by the defense counsels

The witness was examined by defense counsels Oplantzakis, Michalolias T.

When asked whether he knows about the positions and the parliamentary political activity of Golden Dawn, the witness stated that to call it political activity would be too much, when they mostly use hate speech and racist bile. When asked whether Golden Dawn is for or against the Memorandum, the witness stated that Golden Dawn de facto supports the Memorandum, since they attack the unions and the Left who fight against the memorandums. Responding to a relevant question, the witness stated that he knew Pavlos Fyssas through his antifascist songs and specifically by his lyric “It’s beautiful to die one day on your own two feet”, which the witness called prophetic. When asked whether the newspaper had reported the attacks against the offices of Golden Dawn, the witness stated that there were some questions about who it was that attacked the offices of Golden Dawn in Neo Irakleio.
The presiding judge adjourned for January 9th, 2017, in the Court of Appeals.