In a momentous ruling today, an Athens appeals court found that the far-right neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party was operating as a criminal organization. The court also found that members of the group orchestrated or colluded in the 2013 murder of 34-year-old antifascist activist and rapper Pavlos Fyssas, the 2013 murder of 27-year-old Pakistani national Shehzad Luqman, and numerous brutal attacks against migrants, trade unionists, and human rights defenders.
It’s a landmark victory for the victims, their families, and civil society. An estimated 20,000 people who gathered in downtown Athens erupted in cheers when they heard the verdict. Magda Fyssa cried out, “You did it, my son!” perhaps finally finding some meaning in the otherwise senseless loss of her son Pavlos.
It has been a long time coming.
Back in 2010-2013, when Golden Dawn flourished, Greece saw an epidemic of violence. In 2011-2012, we documented dozens of attacks on foreigners, who had been beaten, kicked, and chased down the streets of Athens by gangs of Greeks linked to Golden Dawn. Victims included migrants and asylum seekers, pregnant women, and children. Many attacks went unpunished, with police doing little to intervene and courts to hold perpetrators to account.
In January 2012, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos sat across a table from us and denied any involvement in violence. Now he and seven other former lawmakers are facing sentences of up to 15 years in jail for leading a violent, criminal organization. Many others await sentencing for membership.
Talking about Golden Dawn, Michaloliakos said to us, “We want Greece to belong to the Greeks … if that makes us racist, then yes we are.”
Today’s verdict, along with the massive crowd outside the courtroom, sends the clear message that these hateful ideas, and the violence that Golden Dawn spawned, are not welcome in Greek society anymore.