Day 85 (13/9/2016): In my religion it is forbidden to bear false witness’ – Egyptian fisherman’s testimony stuns Greek court
All except the fascist defendants and their lawyers were left stunned today at the trial of Golden Dawn by the testimony of Abu Hamad Sa’ad.
With great emotional power and analytical detail he described the raid by over a dozen Golden Dawn members in June 2012 on the house he shared with a group of other Egyptians, including Abuzid Ebarak, who was almost killed in the attack.
Yesterday the lawyers of Golden Dawn, many paid out of the Greek state budget as “technical staff” to the fascist parliamentary fraction, sought to belittle and abuse Abuzid in the witness box.
Today a further witness to the truth of what happened that night in June 2012 left them with very little to say and with the court less tolerant of their theatrics.
Abu Hamad Sa’ad recalled with compelling accuracy the minute by minute unfolding of the attack which nearly killed his friend.
It began with the Golden Dawn gang trying to smash down the front door of their house: “Open up, assholes. We are here to teach you what Golden Dawn is.”
Abu Hamad lives and works legally in Greece. “I have no problems with people here,” he told the president of the court – as Abuzid had also repeatedly told the trial in his testimony.
He was adamant that he could recognise where the attack that night came from and the affiliation of the men who perpetrated it.
He paused. Then words punctured the silence: “In my religion it is a very bad thing to accuse someone falsely.” The court was reminded that he had taken his oath to tell the truth upon the Koran.
Abu Hamad continued: “We had to struggle to survive in Greece. We worked, We came to Greece for a better life. I sell a kilo of fish, if someone wants to buy it. If not, I don’t sell anything.”
Those words – voiced plainly and elegantly in Greek – are ones which many people in this country wracked by austerity understand all too well, however long they or their forebears have lived here.
He described how after the attackers fled he found his friend Abuzid, who had been sleeping outside on the terrace. His face and mouth were bloodied and swollen. His jaw twisted. He could not speak. Only gasps.
“I came to Greece alone,” Abu Hamad said, answering the presiding judge’s questions. “My big brother Ahmed had already been here for two years.
“We became fishermen on a boat and lived together. My other brother Mohammed came a couple of months after me. I worked for six months in the construction industry, then other jobs, and now we are fishermen.”
He knew Abuzid from Egypt, as their homes there were but two kilometres apart. He and his brothers assisted Abuzid to find work. They helped him out, though Abuzid protested any generosity.
As his testimony continued a matter of fact story took shape. Men of working age moving to a foreign land to try to make a life for themselves and for their families. Men moving first, perhaps women later – if a livelihood could be assured.
It is the story of the families of almost every Greek in the world, whether in Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne, London, or Munich.
And Abu Hamad’s and Abuzid’s parents and relatives worried about the dangers that might befall the migrants in a strange land.
In just the same way half a century ago, Greek parents fretted over the fate of their sons who had gone to work in the car factories of Germany or the building sites of Australia – from there to send home remittances: one wage packet in Stuttgart sustaining an extended family in Salonika.
Not just Greeks. And not just then. This is the condition today of large numbers of working people the world over.
Abu Hamad: “On the day of the attack we woke up at dawn to open the shop. I fell asleep at ten or ten thirty at night. The work is very tiring.
“Apart from my siblings, there were Ahmed’s two children in the house, aged 15 and 17.
“Suddenly the whole house shook, the door and the window. I heard my brother Ahmed cursing someone and there were men shouting through the door and the window. They smashed them with sticks and iron bars.
“We managed to keep the shutters of the windows closed and avoided being hit.” The court has already heard how the Golden Dawn gang had gone round to the terrace, where Abuzid was sleeping, to attack him.
Abu Hamad continued: “The young children hid under the beds.
“I sensed first there were about five or six people outside. Eventually I realised it was about a dozen.”
The Egyptian fisherman called out for the neighbours to help as the glass to the windows and door was smashed. Abu Hamad was clear who was attacking. “I had heard of Golden Dawn and my brother had seen these people in the neighbourhood. We were told that they can harm you.”
Costas and another neighbour answered the alarm, but arrived just as the attackers were fleeing on motorbikes. They were all clad in black. About half a dozen of them were armed with staves and bars.
The assault took place in minutes – military precision, you might say. Costas helped to summon the police and ambulance service.
Abu Hamad had seen the face of just one of the assailants. Unlike two other witnesses who will give evidence, he has never claimed to be sure of identifying by sight any of the attackers.
Could he identify them now? Without hesitation: “I must say that I cannot be sure. In my religion it is forbidden to accuse someone without being sure.”
With equal honesty, he described how Golden Dawn had driven past the house a dozen times before, looking threatening, and how he went that night with Abuzid to the hospital and then to another – fearful that he might die.
Lawyers for Golden Dawn resumed the contemptuous line of questioning that they hurled at the principal victim of this crime, Abuzid, yesterday.
They accused Abu Hamad of lying and that the whole incident was a result of a fight between “compatriots” – foreigners from the same region abroad and falling out over some matter or another.
That was the theory of the German police and internal intelligence in the case of the murder of nine Turkish and Kurdish men and one Greek between 2000 and 2007. They said, and worked on the basis, that the killings were gang and drug related. The murders turned out to be the work of a Nazi terror gang – the National-Socialist Underground – which is now the subject of a trial in Germany.
Once again came the accusation that the Egyptian fishermen were “working illegally”, here “to get something “, perhaps “paid” by a sinister force. And again came the despicable questioning of why these men from another country “increased the size of their families” when they were so poor.
Golden Dawn is not on trial for its ideology. What it says is of relevance to this process only in so far as it illustrates the criminal charge laid against it under Article 187 of the Greek penal code.
It is criminal actions – felonies, serious crimes – that are being tried along with the charge that those flow from the existence of a command-structure criminal organisation: a mafia of the violent and racist right.
But the well paid lawyers of Golden Dawn and the fascist criminal organisation itself are throwing another question into the scales as they plead their defence. It is the very idea that newcomers to the European continent are entitled to the protections of citizens who have been here longer.
They are laying the doctrine of racism and xenophobia before the court and, more widely, issuing that as an appeal to European opinion in their defence.
The judicial arm of the Greek state will have to decide how to respond to that question in its verdict in over a year’s time.
The more important verdict upon that question is the one that must be delivered now – and by the peoples of Europe and beyond.
Day 86 (19/9/2016): Egyptian fisherman identifies lead Golden Dawn assailant in court
Abu Hamad Sa’ad continued his testimony in the trial of Golden Dawn today and identified “with 90 percent certainty” a leading Golden Dawn member in Perama as one of those who attacked the Egyptian fishermen in their home four years ago.
It was a dramatic moment coming on the day that the public sector trade union federation ADEDY struck in Athens and the surrounding area for three hours to bolster the anti-fascist presence outside and inside the court this morning.
Anastasios Pantazis is one of the five-man leadership of the Golden Dawn branch in the Perama suburb of Athens.
He is accused of not only being part of the attack on the four Egyptians, which included the attempted murder of Abuzid Ebarak, but of directing it.
He was in the dock with four other accused today. Last Friday when Abu Hamad began his testimony he was not, and there was only one Golden Dawn defendant in court.
The president of the court asked Abu Hamad if he could identify the attacker who had tried to break in through the window, who he had seen at the time of the attack.
He answered that he was “90 percent sure” that it was Pantazis.
How could he be 90 percent sure now when in his witness statement to police on the night of the attack he had said he could not identify anyone?
Abu Hamad: “When I went to the hospital with my friend I was very scared.
“In the ambulance on the way and at the hospital the crew and people were talking. I overheard a conversation. One of them asked whether the injuries were from a car accident.
“‘No,’ said another. ‘It was Golden Dawn. They attack foreigners.’
“So at the hospital and before the police came I said to myself, ‘Ok – I saw one of them. But let’s say that I did not, so that I don’t end up getting involved with them again.’
“I was very scared. My friend was dying.”
And now what do you say?
“On the night I saw through the window. He had black hair and a slight beard. He was dark-skinned, medium height and weight. He had full cheeks. He wore a black shirt and trousers. I saw him from the waist up.
“I am 90 percent sure it is him…” and he pointed directly at Pantazis.
Why only 90 percent? Abu Hamad has repeatedly said that he is Muslim and believes it is forbidden to bear false witness, and so he must truthfully acknowledge any element of doubt.
But his identification was without hesitation – and then he said: “God knows why they beat us.”
There had been uproar earlier during his testimony when he told the court that he and his friends had been approached by lawyers acting for the defendants shortly after the attack with an offer of money if they dropped the complaint and the prosecution.
The Egyptian fishermen were attacked in June 2012. But it was over a year later, in the weeks following the murder of Pavlos Fyssas on 17-18 September 2013, that the authorities were forced to move seriously against Golden Dawn and their case was reassessed as an attempted murder as well as grievous bodily harm and other offences.
Hours before the attack Golden Dawn MP and local leader Giannis Lagos had addressed a meeting of the fascists in Perama. Video and other evidence of the meeting is with the court.
At it he said: “It has come to our attention that there are these Egyptian fishermen in the neighbourhood, selling fish from their shop as they please.
“They are not Greek and are not accountable to anyone. From now on they will be accountable to Golden Dawn.”
The Greek word he used for “accountable” means both accountable in a general sense of having to report to and also in the literal, financial sense of having to hand over your accounts and financial records.
One of the lawyers for the Egyptian fisherman and for the Civil Action for the Prosecution of Golden Dawn introduced Lagos’s words at that meeting not far from where the attack took place later that night and asked Abu Hamad:
“Who are you accountable to?”
Abu Hamad: “Well – to the government, to the tax office, to the police…”
Lawyer: “So what do you think Lagos meant by saying you were to be made accountable to Golden Dawn?”
Abu Hamad: “I think he must mean that they want to be the government, the power.”
The exchange seemed to leave an impression on the court. Evidence will be presented later in the trial of Golden Dawn operating both as a para-state agency, with the collusion of local police, and as a protection racket.
That dual character is one of the issues being tried in demonstrating that Golden Dawn is a fascist, criminal organisation with a centrally-directed command structure. A violent, racist and right wing mafia.
Lawyers of the anti-fascist movement had submitted a request in the morning for the court to adjourn early, at 2.30pm, so that they and others could attend the funeral of Christos Bistis.
He passed away last week, aged 77, and was a long-standing and highly respected figure on the Greek radical left going back to the revolutionary upsurge which toppled the military junta in 1974.
The presiding judge agreed to the request.
Many left the court that is the scene of a major battle against fascism today to join the cortege of someone who did so much to defeat it in the past.