After a trial that lasted more than five years, a court in Greece on Wednesday ruled that the far right-wing Golden Dawn political party is a criminal organization.
The party was founded in the 1980s by Nikos Michaloliakos and came to prominence in 2012 when it gained 21 seats in parliamentary elections. The party is openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic, using the slogan “Blood, honor, Golden Dawn!” which is adapted from the Nazi Hitler Youth organization slogan “Blood and honor.” After the election, party members broke into the homes of Egyptian fishermen and attempted to murder them, and a year after the election party members did murder Pavlos Fyssas, a Greek anti-fascist musician. In 2016, the party endorsed Donald Trump for U.S. president because of his opposition to undocumented immigrants.
The three judge panel convicted 68 Golden Dawn members of a variety of crimes, including murder and attempted murder. Eleven of those convicted were present in the courtroom at the time. All seven members of the party’s political council, including Michaloliakos, were convicted of directing a criminal organization, and eleven former members of parliament were found guilty of participating in a criminal organization. The leaders face up to fifteen years in jail. Giorgos Roupakias, who was found guilty of the murder of Fyssas, could receive a life sentence.
Greece’s president Katerina Sakellaropoulou welcomed the verdicts, saying in a statement, “Today’s decision is a confirmation that democracy and its institutions are always capable of fending off any attempt to undermine them.” Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, “As prime minister, I consciously refrain from commenting on court decisions. As a Greek citizen, however, I share the universal satisfaction for the recognition of its criminal character.”
Nils Muižnieks, Europe’s director of Amnesty International, cautioned that, “Golden Dawn’s activities exposed a fissure that exists not just within Greek society but across Europe and beyond.” He also stated that he hoped the judgment would act as a deterrent against future racial violence and hate crimes.