Golden Dawn on trial: “Here is the blood-stained shirt” (day 115)

Kevin Ovenden reports from the trial of Golden Dawn, the most far-reaching trial of fascist criminal activity in Europe since the Nuremberg process following the Second World War.

Giorgos Sklavolias‘s testimony had already gripped the court this afternoon, the 115th day of the trial of Golden Dawn as a criminal organisation.

But when the shipyard worker held up his white T-shirt, stained in the blood of fellow PAME union activist Sotiris Poulikogiannis, the moment of drama ricocheted way beyond the central Athens courtroom, where the Greek fascist party stands accused.

Sklavolias has worked in the Perama shipyards since 1998, is a member of the Communist Party and active in the metalworkers trade union.

He described how a group of about four dozen men armed with nail-studded staves, planks, iron bars and truncheons attacked him and other activists out flyposting in September 2013.

“Some had covered their faces with their black shirts. They had shaven heads – the same characteristics,” he told the court. From the beginning he realised they were Golden Dawn and he recognised a local fascist leader.

In any case, the fascists announced themselves: “We are Golden Dawn; flea from here!”

Then they attacked. Sklavolias, described the hail of bricks and stones and his comrades being beaten. After a time one of the Golden Dawn squad ordered a cessation: “Perama [members], away from here!”. There were at least two Golden Dawn battalion squads in the attack – from Perama and probably Salamina.

The witness found the leader of the metal workers union, Sotiris Poulikogiannis, blood-drenched on the pavement. “He was gushing blood,” he said, “I saw him and went to lift his head a little to help him.

“My shirt was smeared with blood. It was like this…” and he held it up.

The witness identified photographs of weapons, custom-made sticks with metal spikes, as those used that night.

It was the president of the court who asked the witness why he thought the attack had taken place. It was to remove the PAME union front from the shipbuilding zone, he replied: “We are the singular class enemy. We fight in the Zone for the rights of workers. I heard from the news and from colleagues that Golden Dawn has underground dealings with contractors. They want in any way for PAME to disappear from the port.”

As other witnesses have also testified, Sklavolias said that the fascists broke off the attack only when they thought Poulikogiannis was dead.

The trial continues tomorrow with further witnesses to the attack on the trade unionists in September 2013. But already the wider questions about the criminal responsibility of the Golden Dawn leadership as a whole are being raised.

The anti-fascist lawyers acting for the victims have been clear throughout that the prosecution is strictly according to the criminal law – of crimes committed by Golden Dawn members and of the leadership and cadres of the Golden Dawn as constituting a criminal organisation.

The fascists’ lawyers response has been to make this out to be a political process. Thus, they have sought to counter evidence of criminal actions by Golden Dawn with questioning about the alleged “criminality of Communism”.

But in recent sittings of the court the presiding judge has ruled out such lines of questioning by advocates for the Golden Dawn defendants.

The criminal nature of fascist politics may well be tied up with this whole case. But the court is to adjudicate upon specific criminal actions and liabilities – not upon the history of the 20th century, however much it is still being played out in this one.

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