Golden Dawn trial likely to start in March, before predetention expires

Dozens of members of Greece’s neofascist Golden Dawn including the party’s leader Nikos Michaloliakos (photo) and all GD MPs – current and former – are to stand trial, possibly by mid-March, on a string of criminal charges including running a criminal organization, a committee of judges ruled on Wednesday.

The decision, issued by a three-member council of criminal appeals court judges, ruled by two votes to one that 72 out of a total of 85 defendants should face trial. One judge proposed more lenient treatment, citing a United Nations convention signed in Palermo in 2000 which stipulates that a group can be categorized as a criminal organization if it can be shown to draw financial profit from its activities. However, despite the objections of Nikolaos Salatas, the two other judges on the panel deemed that the defendants should face charges of running a criminal organization.

The defendants include all 18 Golden Dawn MPs elected to Parliament in 2012, including two who have since left the party.

A total of 54 party members also face trial, including Giorgos Roupakias, the GD supporter who has admitted to killing rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013.

If convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison.

A date for the trial was not set but it is widely expected to begin in March as this is when the maximum 18-month predetention period expires for most GD members in pretrial custody.

In a statement on its website after the ruling emerged, Golden Dawn rebuffed the charges again, reiterating that its members are victims of “a political frame-up.”