Golden Dawn nazis are back in the dock

saad_pantazisKEVIN OVENDEN reports on the latest developments inside the Greek trial against the Golden Dawn fascists (Morning Star, 24/9/2016).

THE full savagery of Golden Dawn is being laid bare weekly in the three-member higher court in Athens. The trial of the Greek neonazi organisation is now proceeding rapidly after nearly 18 months of sittings interrupted by delays.

Beginning to be revealed too is the collusion with Golden Dawn by elements in the Greek state in this most significant trial of fascist criminality since the Nuremberg process at the end of the second world war.

The trial began in April 2015. It was paused for five months due to a nationwide lawyers’ strike as part of the wave of social resistance to further austerity earlier this year. Lawyers for the 69 fascist defendants have also adopted delaying tactics.

With 17 MPs and about 7 per cent share of the national vote, Golden Dawn is the third largest party in the Greek parliament.

Now the court is back in regular session and the actions of anti-fascist campaigners and trade unionists have been a powerful inhibitor on Golden Dawn’s attempts to exploit frustration with the Syriza government — which is busy imposing further austerity and the shameful EU-Turkey refugee deal.

This time last year, as the Greek government gave in to the demands of the troika (the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), there were many predictions that the neonazi Golden Dawn would enjoy a second meteoric rise. That is not happening.

The reason for this is the ongoing actions of the anti-fascist and anti-racist movement.

The movement is represented in the court by its own lawyers, acting for the victims of Golden Dawn and independent from the state prosecution.

The fascists are on trial. So too are the mechanisms in Greek public life which allowed them to operate for two decades with near-impunity.

There are four pillars of the trial. The first is the murder in September 2013 of rap singer Pavlos Fyssas.

It was nothing short of a nationwide anti-fascist uprising in response three years ago this week that forced the then hard-right government to abandon its back-channel flirtation with the fascists and to allow this prosecution.

The court has now heard all the evidence of the Fyssas case. That he was murdered by a Golden Dawn “battalion squad” — an imitation of Hitler’s Brownshirts — is barely disputed by the fascists’ defence lawyers.

What they are desperate to deny is the trail of evidence that links that murder in the Keratsini area of Athens through the command structure of the neonazi organisation to its central leadership, all of whom are in the dock.

To that end, they tried two weeks ago to convince the court to separate the murder and other serious crimes from the overall charge that Golden Dawn is a criminal organisation masquerading as a bona fide political party.

In a significant victory for the prosecution, the presiding judge has ruled this case as one trial with several aspects and not a series of disconnected charges.

That news was well received at protests and vigils called by the Keerfa anti-fascist coalition and the Fyssas family last weekend to commemorate the murder of Pavlos.

As we marched through the narrow streets of the working-class suburb next to the giant docks of Piraeus, a shocking revelation from the court vividly struck us.

It is less than 90 metres from the cafe where Pavlos was spotted by the Golden Dawn gang to the place where he was stabbed to death. It is next to a bus stop on what has now been renamed by the municipality Pavlos Fyssas Street.

Police officers who were at the scene but who failed to intervene and stop the murderous assault have told the court that they “had been running frantically for four minutes” from the cafe, but had not managed to get to the scene of the murder in time. Ninety metres. Four minutes?

The second aspect of the case is the near-fatal attack by a 17-strong battalion squad on four Egyptian fishermen and their children in their home in the Perama area also near Piraeus in June 2012. Evidence of that crime will be completed next week.

Even the conservative Greek media has been struck over the last fortnight by the dignity and honesty of these Egyptian migrant workers. “In my religion it is forbidden to bear false witness,” Abu Hamad Sa’ad told the court. Without hestitation, he pointed his finger to the accused ringleader of the attack standing with others in the dock and said: “It was him! God knows why they beat us.”

The trial is under Article 187 of the Greek penal code that covers mafia-style crime in which the many felonies committed are the work of an overall criminal organisation and not just of the principal perpetrators.

So this is not a trial of beliefs or ideas, much as the fascists are trying to portray themselves as martyrs of “free speech.”

Yet the behaviour of the fascists and their legal team — nearly 100 lawyers, most of whom are paid out of the Greek parliamentary budget as supposed “technical staff” to the 17 Golden Dawn MPs — is itself revealing the nazi and virulently racist ideology which motivates the criminal acts.

The fascists’ lawyers last week subjected the Egyptian fisherman to a shocking verbal assault in the witness box, almost a complement to the actual attempted murder four years ago.

Again and again they accused them of “working illegally” and questioned why they had “so many children if they were so poor?”

“This is what was said of the poor under the nazi occupation,” said one of the anti-fascist lawyers to the court. “It is eugenics. The poor should not ‘breed’. Madam president of the court, we have just heard the ideology of nazism!”

He is acting for the victims of the third crime being tried: the near-fatal attack on Sotiris Poulikogiannis and over 20 other activists of the PAME (All-Workers Militant Front) inter-union front not far from where Fyssas was killed and just five days before.

The court will turn to that case next month. Evidence will be heard of the connection between Golden Dawn and attempts to set up at the behest of shipyard owners a yellow union in Piraeus, which was the immediate motivation for trying to smash physically a group of union militants affiliated with the Communist Party of Greece.

For all Golden Dawn’s anti-Establishment posturing, the anti-fascist movement in and outside the courtroom is demonstrating that it has been allowed to operate through the collusion of the state, the traditional right and big business.

Proving the nature of that criminal nexus is what the court will turn to at the end of this year and throughout all of next.

Too much commentary suggests that the only political choice in Europe is between the neoliberal governments of the centre-right and centre-left and racist or even fascist populists.

Greece, still mired in austerity and the EU’s anti-refugee measures, is showing the other part of the picture across the continent.

Concerted anti-fascist and anti-racist struggles — uniting radical young people, new migrant communities and the strong spine of organised labour — can hurl back the racists and the far right.

In so doing, the space of democracy may be defended and opened to the advance of the left.

Refugee children were welcomed into schools across Greece at the start of term this month by teachers preparing a wave of industrial action to reverse the austerity cuts to staffing.

No-one observing this historic trial can be complacent about the threat of violent, racist reaction.

But in equal measure, no-one should fatalistically accept that its rise is inexorable.

It will not be stopped by the European institutions. It is, however, being held back by the working class and radical-left forces of Greece.

[Kevin Ovenden’s daily reports from the trial can be read at].

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