Day 74: Cross-examination of witness Ilias Kontonikolas

74th Hearing, Ceremonial Hall, Athens Court of Appeals, Athens, 14 July 2016

1. Court access

The courtroom remains open to the public on presentation of a state ID card, which the police retain for the duration of the session. Spectators and press were present.

2. Presence and representation of the defendants

Fifteen of the 18 defendants whose physical presence was mandated by the court were present; 25 defendants were recorded as absent, while the others’ representation was discussed throughout the days’ proceedings.

3. Cross-examination of Ilias Kontonikolas by the civil action

When Ilias Kontonikolas, a friend of Pavlos Fyssas, returned to the witness stand, he was initially asked if he recognised any of the defendants as being at the scene that night. He identified Giorgos Roupakias as the murderer.

Responding to questions from civil action lawyers, the witness said that he and his friends had been terrified. All of them weren’t together the entire time. The first time Roupakias’ car and the Golden Dawn members had driven past, they hadn’t attacked the group because they hadn’t recognised them and were waiting for everyone to get there so they could carry out whatever it was they planned to do.

Kontonikolas said the throng was shouting, screaming, swearing; he had fled but was unable to get back up and run after being beaten. He said he realised that the Golden Dawn group was waiting for Roupakias when he saw how they acted when he arrived, as if they had been keeping Fyssas back so the deed could be done and from the fact that after the murder, they backed away from the circle they had formed around him and left. The witness repeated that the Golden Dawn members departed by walking right past the police officers and that the presence of the police hadn’t discouraged the Golden Dawn group at all. He also repeated that the police had softened what he had said in his depositions to make them more favorable towards them. The witness reiterated that the two police officers on the traffic island hadn’t acted at all until Roupakias arrived, although they could’ve done something. Fyssas had likely been the target of the attack even though someone else could also have been killed that night.

In pictures he was shown by civil action lawyer Andreas Tzelis, the witness recognised Roupakias and two others who resembled their attackers that night. Replying to questions from civil action lawyer Ellada Christodoulou, he said he had been punched in the head, then fallen through a storefront window and beaten, and that those beating him were an assault squad. He described Fyssas as an activist, who performed in concerts and wasn’t aggressive.

In direct examination by civil action lawyer Chrysa Papadopoulou, the witness said he’d heard that the Golden Dawners assembled after being sent text messages and that Ioannis Lagos had given the order. He hadn’t received any telephone threats but that after the attack, he had received some strange friend requests on Facebook from people with seemingly fake profiles.

During examination by civil action lawyer Takis Zotos, the witness said he didn’t know from which station the police officers who had taken his statement were because they were not in uniform. Kontonikolas said he had been worried by the fact that the three Golden Dawn members had left Koralli café before the football match had ended. He hadn’t connected their early departure to anything specific at the time, although he now believed they left to organise the group because it came together so fast. The witness said he had felt something was about to go down with his friends when he saw Roupakias’ car being followed by motorcycles. He said that those in the motorcade had a similar appearance to the group he had seen at Koralli. The witness said that he and Dimitris Melachrinopoulos had discussed the man who claimed to be a police officer and had been talking alternately to their group and the Golden Dawn group on Pavlou Mela street. Kontonikolas also said that he and his friends were vastly outnumbered by the others. When they were in the café they hadn’t expected an attack but that changed when they went outside. The Golden Dawn group was also far stronger physically and he wouldn’t have been able to handle them in a fight and that he and friends had no plan for defending themselves other than fleeing. He said there were common elements in the assault on them and other Golden Dawn attacks he knew about, such as they were all at night and organised. He said that after the attack, he didn’t leave the house for fear of being recognised and assaulted by Golden Dawn members as none of them had been arrested that night.

To questions from civil action lawyer Thanasis Kampagiannis, the witness said that he and his friends had gone over to Koralli because Fyssas’ group didn’t have a car. The persons on Pavlou Mela street had the option of leaving in another direction. He and his friends didn’t do anything and weren’t carrying anything that could be used as a weapon. The were frightened by the bellowing mob across the street as they could have blocked him and his friends if they had tried to flee. Kontonikolas said he described the group as a mob, not just because they were shouting but because they were being aggressive and swearing.

During examination by civil action lawyer Kostas Papadakis, he said the mob was coordinated; there were about 20 people across the street apart from the nine involved in the beatings. When the car pulled up, they widened the circle. Kontonikolas said the incident seemed to progress step by step, and that even the perpetrators’ bodies suggested they had been handpicked for this type of job. He said a lot of people converged in short time; it seemed organised. The witness said Roupakias was needed because, aside from beating him and his friends, they had wanted to kill Fyssas.

When the session resumed after a short recess, Kontonikolas said people who weren’t journalists had photographed him outside in the hallway.

Papadakis resumed his examination of the witness, who said that Roupakias may have asked Fyssas for directions to Kefallinias street in order to get a good look at and identify them. Kontonikolas said he had first felt the police’s presence on Pavlou Mela street, when he became suspicious of the Golden Dawn members’ movements. He noticed the police a second time when he and his friends were being chased by the screaming Golden Dawn group. He said the police noted this but didn’t interfere then or even when the witness and his friends were being beaten by the Golden Dawn group with their helmets. He said that because the police had just stood by, he hadn’t gone to see a medical examiner as he didn’t even feel safe enough to make a statement. By contrast, the police’s inaction had a positive effect on the Golden Dawn attackers, making them feel more comfortable.

The witness was then examined by civil action lawyer Panagiotis Sapountzakis. He described the night’s events as a totally unprovoked and organised attack. Kontonikolas said he thought it was very strange that the police had arrested almost all the witnesses that night but not a single Golden Dawn member. In his view, Roupakias could’ve got away.

During examination by civil action lawyer Haris Stratis, the witness said that Roupakias wanted to get away; that the motorcycles were trailing Roupakias’ silver-colored car; and that the groups that had attacked the All Workers Militant Front (PAME) trade unionists and him with his friends were similar in appearance and had acted in a very short space of time.

Civil action lawyer Manos Malagaris continued examining the witness, who said he hadn’t been in a position to provide details in his preliminary statement which had only been a summary. He didn’t practice any martial arts or gets involved in brawls and bullying. He believed that the average person could pick out a Golden Dawn group. He wouldn’t have been able to hear if someone was giving orders that night and hadn’t seen anything from when they were in Koralli to when they got to Tsaldari street that might have justifed Roupakias’ actions.

Responding to questions from civil action lawyer Eleni Zafiriou, the witness testified that the police could see the Golden Dawn members’ motorcycles and take down their license plates in order to trace the owners later. Asked about the Golden Dawn political party, Kontonikolas said he knew they used the Nazi salute, opposed anyone who is different, and sought to impose their ideology through the use of violence. He didn’t know if party officials took part in assault squads or what the words “Golden Dawn” meant but he knew there was a party under that name in parliament. Regarding the assault squads, the witness said they were military-like and conducted assaults. He also said he had seen Golden Dawn MPs with meander-like symbols, while some had swastika tattoos.

4. Cross-examination by the defence

Dimitris Gavelas began the cross-examination for the defence. Kontonikolas said he had been with Melachrinopoulos that night, who had come by his house earlier and that both had been left speechless by the event. When Gavelas said that Melachrinopoulos stated they had gone to a café named Mikro, the witness said it was the Souvenir because there was no café named Mikro in the area. He didn’t overhear any conversation between Fyssas and Melachrinopoulos inside Koralli café but could not know if they had whispered something. He also said that being stared at bothered him but that he hadn’t stared at anyone himself; he had only glanced over the group that had left before the football match ended because they had passed in front of them.

Kontonikolas said he had given his preliminary statement in a small room with four other people who were police officers, although some were in plainclothes. He hadn’t mentioned the mob even though he believed their presence had been important, while the second time he was called to give a statement, he had basically been summoned to make an identification and that no one had asked him about that group. Asked about the video showing Giorgos Patelis, he said he remembered Patelis’ phrase “we slay whatever moves” and “we’re Golden Dawn, we don’t do anything on our own [initiative]”. The witness also said he didn’t recall anyone in the video laughing nor had he shown any interest in whether Patelis had some social activism to show off; the witness said he had seen that particular video on YouTube. He also clarified that he had read somewhere online that the mob gathered after receiving some kind of message whose content he didn’t know.

Answering defence lawyer Nikos Kontovazenitis’ questions, the witness said he had graduated high school and studied 3D animation. He used the word “mob” for the activity of an organised group. He hadn’t engaged in discussion with the civil action lawyers and was not politicised. The witness also said he had spoken to Giorgos Doulvaris after the crime. He hadn’t seen some sort of mediator himself that night but had seen a man around 35 years old taking Fyssas’ pulse. Kontonikolas repeated that he hadn’t seen some clash and that four people were beating Fyssas.

In cross-examination by defence lawyer Vasilis Oplantzakis, the witness said that there had been four police officers present for his preliminary statement. He said they [he and his friends] had gone out for a beer that night and that he doesn’t follow football. Kontonikolas insisted that he and Melachrinopoulos went to Souvenir café first and then to Koralli. They had been served by a male waiter and he had ordered a beer. He said he didn’t know why Melachrinopoulos had given a different account of the scene with the car and motorcycles. He remembered feeling alarmed when the motorcycles showed up as something always goes down when they appear. The four stopped beating Fyssas only seconds before Roupakias stabbed him and that Fyssas couldn’t flee because he was surrounded. Oplantzakis asked how Fyssas could’ve been stabbed three times without letting out a single cry in pain. The witness said he didn’t remember and wondered if Oplantzakis was implying Fyssas hadn’t been stabbed. Kontonikolas said he hadn’t seen the knife himself and that the Golden Dawn members across the street and the four beating Fyssas had left after the knifing. Police officers could see Roupakias with the knife as they were closer, near Fyssas. He hadn’t heard if the Golden Dawn members who were yelling had said something like “get him!” but their actions were aimed at intimidating Fyssas’ friends and egging on Fyssas’ attackers and Roupakias. On the occasions he had gone to Fyssas’ home, they had spoken about music. Fyssas had written many songs and that he knew one of them which was antifascist, titled “Gama tous” (Fuck them).

Answering questions from defence lawyer Dimitra Velentza, the witness said he was certain he had gone to the café the way he had described in his testimony: they had left Souvenir immediately, it had been a tight squeeze in the cars, they had all gone to Koralli together, and he only knew the others in the group at Koralli to see. Kontonikolas said he realised the guys dressed in black inside Koralli were Golden Dawn members because of their body type and because they were with the guy in fatigues. He said Roupakias was not of similar build and that as far as he recalled, his car did have license plates, although he couldn’t remember if the windows were plain or smoked glass. Kontonikolas said that Roupakias wasn’t visible but that Fyssas had seen him. While he had been about three meters from Fyssas with nothing between them, he hadn’t seen the knife, just Roupakias’ stabbing motion.

Defence lawyer Dimitris Tzebetzis continued the cross-examination. The witness said he often hopped cafés or bars when he went out. The police should’ve realised he was not in a position to testify when they took his preliminary statement which he didn’t completely confirm. The lawyer moved for the witness to be cross-examined with the police officers and reiterated this request when the witness said that the police officers could see the four men as they beat Fyssas because they were nearby, on the traffic island.

In reply to questions from defence lawyer Christoforos Tsagkas, the witness said that the additional person in their group was probably Michalis Xypolitos, that his house was about a kilometer from Koralli, that he had received a phone call to go to make a deposition to the investigating magistrate and that he took his testimony seriously. He didn’t see exactly who was chasing him and his friends because they attacked him, but that he could hear them. He had fled but had been unable to outrun them. He didn’t hear anything being said while Fyssas was assaulted. Fyssas defended himself with his fists when he was being beaten. They were quite close to the parking indentation in the sidewalk that the car pulled into. He didn’t know if those across the street could see the knife. There was a traffic island between them and Fyssas, and maybe also a garbage bin and the car. Tsagkas asked a lot of questions about the people across from the murder scene and whether they could discern what Roupakias was doing. The presiding judge eventually intervened, saying that this depended on various factors such as visibility and where people were standing. The witness said neither he nor Melachrinopoulos had received first aid.

During cross-examination by defence lawyer Giorgos Roumpekas, the witness said the two cafés, Koralli and Souvenir, were about 500 meters apart and that finding parking in the area was generally easy. He said they weren’t in a rush to get to Koralli and had parked somewhere near Kefallinias street. He also testified that he believed there were cars parked outside Number 62 Tsaldari street but that Roupakias could have parked elsewhere. There were parking spaces a little further away and 20 meters from there. Fyssas hadn’t had time to react when the group beating him stepped back to widen the circle around him; he said he could see Fyssas’ back and that after being stabbed, he doubled over – as the presiding judge noted – but seemed still alive about ten minutes later, although the witness didn’t see him moving after that. Kontonikolas also said that Roupakias had seen them cross the street after their first encounter with him, but didn’t think he could have predicted where they would go or if they’d leave down some side street. The witness remarked that when you bash someone over the head with a helmet, your intent may be to kill them. Roupakias could have seen him first if he had been in Fyssas’ place and that it never crossed his mind to jump in the taxi with Giorgos Pakiotis to save himself. He said Fyssas also used the pseudonym Killah P in his concerts and that he didn’t know if Nikos Hatzieftstratiou, whom he recognised from photos, used the nickname Thanasimos (Deadly).

Roubekas asked the witness if he might mistake some of Hatziefstratiou’s friends with short-cropped hair in the photo for Golden Dawn members if he saw them on the street. The witness denied this could happen, as he believed there are other elements of someone’s appearance that signal an affinity with Golden Dawn.

Questioned by defence lawyer Ioannis Pagonas, the witness said he had left Koralli as soon as the football match had ended, but didn’t remember the exact time. He’d had one beer at Koralli and didn’t remember the time at half-time but that the game had started around ten minutes to ten. Around ten minutes probably elapsed between the game’s end and when they left Koralli and another ten minutes between then and the murder. The lawyer asked if what he had said earlier was true – that he’d only been beaten on the head. The witness said no and the presiding judge interjected that the witness hadn’t said any such thing, thus there was no contradiction in his statements. Pagonas then asked the witness why he didn’t sue the “Golden Dawn monsters”, to which Kontonikolas replied that he would never do that because he was scared of them.

In reply to defence lawyer Panagiotis Spyropoulos, the witness said no one had helped him escape and that he believed the four who were there could, but he couldn’t speak about the other 20.

In cross-examination by defence lawyer Dimitris Mammis, the witness said the two people leaving Koralli wouldn’t have done anything by themselves despite being quite brawny. He hadn’t been able to distinguish the features of the motorcycle riders because they wore helmets and that he had not seen Roupakias’ face. The person kicking him wore army boots and kicked him in the ribs, but he hadn’t suffered any fractures, just headaches and pain in his ribcage. Regarding the group on the opposite pavement, Kontonikolas said their plan may have kept them from coming over to beat them up. He repeated that he hadn’t heard anything at the time suggesting Fyssas had been targeted, nor had he heard the phrase “this is Keratsini, fascism doesn’t wash here”. Ηe believed Golden Dawn members were homophobic and wasn’t familiar with Fyssas’ song “Anengichti poli” (Untouched city) that the lawyer said contained homophobic lyrics.

The presiding judge said the court would hear the testimony of Chrysoula Roupakia on Friday, 15 July 15. She also announced the hearing dates for September (Korydallos Prison on September 6 and 8; Ceremonial Hall of Athens Appeals Court on September 5, 9, 12–13, 19, 23, 27).

The court was then adjourned until 9am, Friday, 15 July 2016.