“They sounded like the mainstream” (story in german – interview in english)

(Text: Johanna Jaufer, fm4.orf.at, 29/05/2015)

Die Neonazipartei “Goldene Morgenröte” hat Griechenlands Bevölkerung jahrelang terrorisiert. Jetzt steht die Parteiführung vor Gericht. Woher kommen “Chrysi Avgi” und was erwarten sich Beobachter vom Prozess?

Seit mehr als zwanzig Jahren existiert die “Goldene Morgenröte”, griechisch Chrysi Avgi (Χρυσή Αυγή). Politische Bedeutung erlangte die Gruppe erst im Zuge der europäischen Finanz- und Wirtschaftskrise. In Scharen strömten der offen neonazistischen Partei die WählerInnen zu – verzweifelt am wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Elend im 11-Millionen-Einwohner-Land an der Südgrenze der Europäischen Union.

Die historischen Wurzeln der Gruppierung reichen bis weit vor die Zeit der Militärjunta von 1967-1974 zurück, erklärt Dimitris Psarras, Journalist und Autor einer aktuellen Bestandsaufnahme der Szene rund um Chrysi Avgi. Nach italienisch(/bulgarisch)/deutscher Besatzung im Zweiten Weltkrieg – samt grausamen Überfällen, Massakern (siehe etwa hier und hier) und Hungersnöten – war die Wehrmacht im September 1944 aus Griechenland abgezogen.

morgenroeteschlaeger

Die Partei ist militärisch organisiert, es gilt das nazistische “Führerprinzip”.

Es folgten vier Jahre Bürgerkrieg zwischen linken/kommunistischen und rechten/konservativ-royalistischen Kräften, die einander schon im Widerstand gegen die Besatzer fast ausschließlich feindlich gegenübergestanden waren. Erst beteiligten sich britische Truppen (die sich über das “Prozentabkommen” “freie Hand” in Griechenland gesichert hatten) auf Seiten der Rechten an Auseinandersetzungen, später übernahmen die USA im Rahmen der Truman-Doktrin diese Rolle.

buchcover

“Neofaschisten in Griechenland” ist 2014 im Laika Verlag erschienen

Das kürzliche Erstarken von Chrysi Avgi und die erfolgreiche Selbstinszenierung von Goldene-Morgenröte-Chef Nikolaos Michaloliakos sei schließlich nur im Kontext jahrzehntelanger politischer Spaltung zwischen einander unversöhnlich gegenüberstehenden Lagern zu verstehen, ist Dimitris Psarras überzeugt. Bei den Parlamentswahlen im Mai 2012 konnte Chrysi Avgi erstmals die in Griechenland bestehende Dreiprozenthürde überwinden. Die Partei zog mit knapp sieben Prozent der Stimmen ins griechische Abgeordnetenhaus ein. Weil sich keine Regierungsmehrheit fand, wurde schon einen Monat später wieder gewählt. Wieder erhielt die “Golden Morgenröte” fast sieben Prozent der Stimmen. Neun Prozent waren es bei den EU-Wahlen 2014 und schließlich 6,3 Prozent bei den Parlamentswahlen im Jänner dieses Jahres, womit Chrysi Avgi – bis zum heutigen Tag drittstärkste politische Kraft in Griechenland – 17 Sitze im Griechischen Parlament zufielen.

Methode und Programm

Weite Teile der griechischen Bevölkerung sind seit Ausbruch der Krise massiv verarmt. Die International Federation for Human Rights macht die EU-/Troika-Sparprogramme mittlerweile für Menschenrechtsverletzungen im Arbeits- und Gesundheitsbereich verantwortlich. Die Arbeitslosigkeit unter Jugendlichen liegt bei 60 Prozent, 150.000 gut ausgebildete Menschen haben das Land verlassen; Depressions-, Suizid- und Kindersterblichkeitsraten sind massiv angestiegen.

Golden Dawn supporters

Anhänger von Golden Dawn bei einer Kundgebung

Kein Verbotsgesetz

Anders als in Österreich verstößt die Verwendung und das Zurschaustellen neonazistischer Symbole in Griechenland nicht gegen die Rechtsordnung. Als Symbol heftet sich die “Goldene Morgenröte” den altgriechischen Mäander an ihre Fahnen. Das auf Flussschlingen zurückgehende rechtwinklig gebrochene Ornament soll in diesem Zusammenhang unzweifelhaft auf das Hakenkreuz verweisen.

Tatsächlich stammen die AnhängerInnen von Chrysi Avgi aus genau jenen Teilen der griechischen Bevölkerung, die die Krise am härtesten getroffen hat. “Die allermeisten WählerInnen von Chrysi Avgi sind nicht an Gewaltakten beteiligt”, betont Dimitris Psarras: “Sie fühlen sich zu schwach, um sich selbst zu wehren, wählen Chrysi Avgi aus dem Wunsch nach einem Sündenbock und Rache für das, was ihnen zugestoßen ist und halten die ‘Goldene Morgenröte’ für die einzig ‘Fähigen'”. Wenige hundert Menschen bilden den “harten Kern” von Chrysi Avgi. Sie stellen jene Schlägertrupps, die in Springerstiefeln, Bomberjacken, oft vermummt und bewaffnet durch Athens Straßen gezogen sind und Einwanderer überfallen und eingeschüchtert haben. Für mehr als 300 Angriffe auf MigrantInnen in den letzten Jahren werden Chrysi Avgi verantwortlich gemacht.

MigrantInnen, LGBT-Personen und politisch links Stehenden sprechen Chrysi Avgi alle Rechte ab. Fackelzüge, Aufmärsche und “Patrouillen” der “Sturmtrupps” sind zentrales Element ihrer politischen Strategie. Auf Kundgebungen wurden (Neo-)Nazi-Sprüche (“Blut, Ehre, Goldene Morgenröte”) und -Lieder skandiert, der Holocaust geleugnet.

Um Anhänger haben Chrysi Avgi bei Armen-Ausspeisungen gebuhlt oder über ihre Jugend- und Frauenorganisationen. Blutspende-Aktionen und ein eigenes Mediziner-Netzwerk (“Ärzte mit Grenzen”) standen auch schon am Programm der Neonazis – all diese “Angebote” sind ausschließlich “echten Griechen” zugänglich, wie sie Chrysi Avgi verstehen: im Sinne “ethnisch reiner Abstammung”.

Mit Helmen, Brechstangen und Knüppeln bewaffnet, greifen im September 2013 fünfzig Mitglieder von Chrysi Avgi Mitglieder der kommunistischen Partei KKE an, neun von ihnen werden schwer verletzt ins Krankenhaus gebracht. Nur fünf Tage später folgt die Ermordung des linken Hip-Hop-Musikers Pavlos Fyssas und schließlich der öffentliche Aufschrei. Jetzt setzt sich der Staatsapparat in Bewegung, die Verhaftung weiter Teile der Parteiführung folgt.

Nach monatelangen Erhebungen kommt es 2015 schließlich zum Groß-Prozess gegen hohe Funktionäre von Chrysi Avgi. 69 Angeklagte müssen sich seit ein paar Wochen vor Gericht verantworten, darunter Parteichef Nikolaos Michaloliakos und 18 (frühere) Abgeordnete der Partei. Die Hauptanklagepunkte gegen 66 der Beschuldigten lauten gemäß Paragraph 187 des griechischen Strafgesetzbuches auf Beteiligung an und Führung von einer kriminellen Vereinigung bzw. illegalen Waffenbesitz; einige der Angeklagten sollen wegen Erpressung, Körperverletzung, Raub und Mord belangt werden.

Im Rahmen der Hauptanklage werden drei der massivsten und symbolträchtigsten Angriffe der Gruppe verhandelt: der Mord an Pavlos Fyssas, der Angriff auf die Mitglieder der kommunistischen KKE und der Mordversuch an ägyptischen Fischern im Athener Stadtteil Perama.

Dass Chrysi Avgi seit Jahren ihre politischen Ziele mit kriminellen Mitteln zu verwirklichen suchen, kommt für die Strafverfolgungsbehörden nicht als Überraschung, so Opfer-Anwalt Thanasis Kampagiannis. Der Staatsapparat und die Neonazi-Szene sind in Griechenland tief verflochten – darin gründet sich die gesellschaftliche Dimension des Problems. Jahrelang war das Wüten der Neonazis ein offenes Geheimnis, Behörden hätten nicht nur weggesehen, sondern vielfach mit den Angreifern zusammengearbeitet. Bei Sichten der Aktenlage seien die Untersuchungsrichter auf Anhaltspunkte für mehr als hundert Tatbestände gestoßen, die in weitere Prozesse münden könnten – im jetzigen könnten viele dieser Vorfälle ausschließlich zum Nachweis der kriminellen Vereinigung führen.

Thanasis Kampagiannis im Interview

What makes Golden Dawn so closely intertwined with state mechanisms?

If we ought to talk about that, we need to talk about the history of the Greek far right which has been embedded into the Greek state from the years after the Greek Civil War. So, even if the Nazi collaborators were defeated, they were used by the Greek state in order to crush the resistance movement. For decades, even after the years of the dictatorship, the state mechanisms were never “cleansed” from far-right inclinations. Which means that Golden Dawn as an organization has been enjoying a state of impunity, even if for many years we have been knowing – it is an open secret in Greek society – that Golden Dawn has been perpetrating criminal acts. But no judge, no district attorney ever took the initiative to combine all these separate cases…

… to be convicted of the forming of a criminal organization…

Yes. And this is practically what happened after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. Now the cases that had been combined are more than 100 – it is like “a big file of Golden Dawn” – some of them even happened many years ago, but there was no initiative by state mechanisms, either the police or the judiciary, for these cases to be combined. So, Pavlos Fyssas needed to be murdered…

Someone who is Greek…

Yes. This is of course true. There have been murders of immigrants by GD members and supporters, but the truth is that after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013, the outcry and mobilizations of a big anti-fascist majority of the Greek population has been so big, that the Greek government needed to act, needed to “be seen” as breaking this link between the state, the government and Golden Dawn.

Thanasis Kampagiannis

Nevertheless about half of police – at least in Attica – voted for them in January’s elections.

Yes. There is electoral evidence that about half of the people in the special poll stations where the policemen, special & riot police vote – this is why we are able to know – vote for GD. But the most disturbing is not only that you have policemen voting for GD. The most disturbing is that we now know that there have been heads of police departments that have been collaborating with GD. In the two main areas where GD was active – in Agios Panteleimonas in the center of Athens and in a district of the Port of Piraeus – the two chiefs of the police departments were actively helping and collaborating with GD.

How many leaders are still in predetention, and how did GD – as a strictly authoritarian organization – continue their “political work” in such a situation?

Most of the Members of Parliament of the organization and primarily the leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, had been put in jail pending trial. In our legal system, this can’t be for more than 18 months. Because the process of bringing this trial into the court took that long, this means that Michaloliakos is now outside prison – he is in custody in his house. There are still a handful of MPS and Ex-MPs of GD who are in prison, because they were detained later. On the second thing: Because we’ve got this highly unusual situation where you’ve got the leadership of an organization being accused of directing a criminal organization while at the same time being a political party which is in Parliament, what this meant was that after the beginning of the penal process there was a sharp fall in the racist attacks and incidents of fascist violence in the streets of Athens.

Also in the riots and “pogroms” that had been taking place?

Yes, there was a massive decline, which is a further show that these racist incidents were – not in the totality, but in the majority – certainly centrally organized by the organization. And it is actually a show that because of the fact that the state mechanisms, the police and the judiciary would not move against GD, they could rise in the way they did. What we are now witnessing is a situation where GD tries to mascerade itself again as a legal political party, they try to show a “very respectable face” inside the Parliament, perpetrating the racist and fascist attacks they used to do before 2015 and also before the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. This is the peculiar situation we are facing now and it will need to be resolved with the court decision.

Coming from Austria where there is a law against acting out with Nazi symbols, seeing them being used in public, published in papers etc. is quite striking – but nevertheless, if I understood you rightly, in your opintion this trial is not about “performing” law and order to a political problem.

Yes. First of all: in the Greek legal system, the National Socialist Ideology is not penalized. People are free to praise Hitler or use the swastika. The members of GD are claiming this but it is not true that it’s the ideas that are being put into trial. They denounced their ideology – all of them have now said that they are not National Socialist even if many of them have Nazi tattoos etc.

And they are speaking out very openly in their magazine as well, right?

Yes, of course. It is quite explicit in the case of GD. It is the most explicist Neonazi organization in terms of the far-right parties that we are seeing rising in Western Europe right now. So, it is not the ideas that are put into trial – it’s their criminal acts. This is a trial of criminal acts – of the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, of the attempted murder of the trade unionists, of the Egyptian fishermen who are the people whom we represent in the court. But having said that, we need to be clear that there is a motive in these activities, in these criminal acts. And the motive is the ideological and the political convictions of the defendants. Otherwise, you cannot understand why they attacked anti-fascists, immigrants, asylum-seekers. It is because of a Nazi Ideology and practice that they are perpetrating these criminal activities. So at the same time as we are very clear that it is not ideas but it is criminal acts that are being put into trial, in this case we insist and will need to insist inside the court that there is a very concrete motive that has to do with National Socialist ideology.

Can you give me the details about the attack on the Egyptian fishermen – what happened to your clients?

The attack against my clients took place on June 12th, 2012. It was the pre-election period, five days before the elections of June 17th. A group of GD members invaded their houses and attacked my clients when they were asleep. One of them who has been a victim of an attempted murder because he was nearly killed, was attacked while he was still asleep – by a group of ten men, with their fists and sticks. His head was literally smashed. He was not able to eat solid food for six months. The same group attacked the rest of the Egyptian fisherman, they tried to go in another house but were pushed back, broke their cars, tried to make as much harm as possible and then left. The members of GD were arrested 20 minuted after the incident, two of them were wearing T-Shirts of GD and one of them was the leading member of GD in his neighbourhood. The same man is also being accused of having attacked the trade unionists that took place one year later in September 2013.

What are you expecting of the new Greek government?

Breaking the links between GD and officials in the state (mechanisms). This is the only “intervention” we want from the government. We do not want a judicial intervention. We do not want to give the members of GD the opportunity of victimization and we are very confident that the evidence that exists inside the files is rock solid for the defendants to be convicted. The only intervention that we seek from the government is exposing and breaking the links between GD and the state mechanisms. We also expect help in conducting a trial which will be public and easily accessed which means that the court venue needs to be changed. We asked the justice minister to sort that out. Maybe in September the venue will be changed – this is what the Justice Minister has said accepting actually all the argumentation of the complaintives and lots of other organizations, that the venue is not a proper one for such a big trial.

According to Dimitris Psarras, a thing that helped GD to stay that active and visible in the past was that they had never been openly addressed by governments and state institutions.

Broadly I would agree with that. I think that the problem with the nature in political parties in government in previous years was that not only they weren’t isolating GD politically, but also that they had not prosecuted them for the criminal acts they were perpetrating. What needs to be addressed is the fact that parties with their discourse mainly around the issue of immigrants and asylum seekers and also around state repression, legitimized the discourse and practice of GD. More and more, GD sounded like the mainstream. This was a very big problem. As Dimitris says, there never was a “cordon sanitaire” around GD as an organization. On the other hand, there was the impunity that the organization enjoyed in terms of state mechanisms – police and judiciary. If you regard these two aspects together you can understand why in a period of economic crisis, the percentages of GD rose.

In 2000, an Austrian government was built between right-wing FPÖ and conservative ÖVP. I do by no means want to compare this mere fact to Greece’s situation as a whole right now – to be clear: the FPÖ is right-wing but of course no party openly pursuing Neonazi agendas. And on the other hand, of course, Austria as a former Nazi perpetrator has a different kind of historical responsibility. Anyway, there was a big outcry across Europe back then. Three “experts” were sent in from Brussels to “assess the situation”. In this specific regard, Greece has been in a similar, but of course much gloomier situation throughout the past five years: having your sovereignty “assessed” by supranational institutions, so to say. Throughout all those years of Memoranda being implemented, very detailed measures have been “prescribed”: from cutting back medical expenses to cutting pensions, minimum wages, resolving collective bargaining etc. – but no orders to deal with Neonazis and their criminal record.

First of all: I was personally part of demonstrations back in 2000 that took part in Athens outside the Austrian embassy. I was member of an organization called “Stopp Haider”. We demonstrated because we saw what dangerous evolution that was: the fact that a party of the center-right collaborated with a far-right party. I think that part of this pressure meant that the EU made a stand about this political alliance. But I think, in retrospect, in 15 years, so many things have changed. Even in the stand of the EU which (in the case of Greece and GD) could just be a formality, one could say. But even formal stuff did not take place. Not only did the EU and Brussels never demand as a credit precondition to the Greek state to tackle the far-right threat. Even if there were lots of other measures that were stated as a precondition to keep having its funding by EU, ECB etc. But also the EU accepted the formation of a government between the center-left, center-right party and a far-right party – a more “mild version” of GD, the party was called LAOS – back in 2011. But it was an openly racist party, there is no doubt about it. Even if this was the case, the EU never set this red line. It legitimized in a way the participation of a far right in a government. Even if its votes were never needed to form a government. This was the beginning of the rise of GD – as soon as this party started voting in favor of austerity measures, Memoranda and so on. I believe that it is very crucial not only at the level of the movement, but at the level of the institutions to be able to oblige the state and European institutions to set a red line to the far right. This was not the case in Greek politics in these past few years, not with LAOS and not with GD – and it’s the results we are witnessing today.

Are there personal overlaps in terms of having people who are active in Golden Dawn and have been active in LAOS?

Yes. GD used to have people being candidates in LAOS’ lists. It was a way of them participating and acting out in politics publicly. Ilias Panagiotaros who is an MP of Golden Dawn now – a very well-known nazi-thug and one of the cadres of the leading corps of GD – was a candidate with LAOS in 2002 in the prefectural elections. There were lots of hidden communication between LAOS and GD in the previous years, but what happened was that the participation of LAOS in government and its voting in favor of very serious austerity measures meant that lots of their supporters later preferred to vote for GD.

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