Greek anti-racists pledge ‘watch’ on neo-Nazi trial

Greek anti-racism groups on Thursday said they would offer daily coverage of the landmark trial of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn this month to raise awareness of the group’s alleged crimes.

Entitled Golden Dawn Watch, the initiative will use accredited journalists and qualified lawyers to cover and provide analysis of the trial that opens on April 20.

“This is one of the most important trials in modern Greek history,” Eleftheria Koumandou, a journalist and coordinator of the Greek observatory against racist speech in media, told reporters.

“This is historic material and we must not miss a single sentence,” added Vassiliki Georgiadou, a professor at Panteio University specialising in political extremism and racism.

Around 70 members and alleged supporters of the violently anti-immigrant group will go on trial, most of them facing charges of membership of a criminal organisation, a serious offence in Greece.

Others are accused of murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of weapons and racist violence.

The defendants include party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and around a dozen Golden Dawn parliamentary lawmakers.

Some of the defendants, who include police officers, face sentences of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Golden Dawn says the probe is politically motivated.

Set to take place in a special courtroom inside high security Korydallos prison in west Athens, the trial is expected to last several months.

The organizers said they would follow the model of NSU Watch, a similar initiative in Munich that covers the trial of a three-member neo-Nazi cell that murdered ten people in 2011, mostly Turkish immigrants.

The municipality of Korydallos has called for the trial to be relocated, fearing possible clashes between anti-fascists and Golden Dawn supporters.

An additional problem facing those wishing to attend the trial is that Golden Dawn members habitually pack the courtroom whenever one of their number is on trial, heckling and intimidating witnesses, the organisers said.

“The goal is to have a normal trial without a climate of terror, and to send a message that society is watching both Golden Dawn and the justice system,” said Dimitris Christopoulos, vice-president of the International federation for human rights.

“We have is a unique opportunity to deal the neo-Nazis an exemplary blow through the conviction of leading Golden Dawn members,” said Tassos Giannopoulos of the Athens-Piraeus anti-fascist league.

He added that although the party grabbed third place in January’s elections, it has shut ten of its offices nationwide and draws just a few hundred people to its rallies.

The trial, to be conducted by a panel of three judges, follows a 15-month investigation sparked by the fatal stabbing of a Greek rapper by a Golden Dawn supporter in September 2013.

The group was later also linked to the murder of a Pakistani immigrant and beatings of political opponents. [AFP]