NEWS

Golden Dawn trial starts in absence of leaders; adjourned to May 7

The long-awaited trial of the leadership and MPs of the neofascist Golden Dawn and dozens of party supporters began on Monday in a special courtroom at Korydallos Prison, western Athens, but GD’s leaders were conspicuous by their absence, and the proceedings were adjourned until May 7.

GD leader Nikos Michaloliakos and his fellow MPs snubbed the trial, opting to be represented by their lawyers instead in an apparent attempt to downplay the political aspect of the trial.

Only three of the 18 MPs elected to Parliament in 2012 were present: Artemis Matthaiopoulos, who was reelected in January, Polyvios Zisimopoulos, who did not regain his seat, and Stathis Boukouras, who has cut ties with the party. Also in court was Giorgos Roupakias, a GD supporter who has admitted to killing leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013. Fyssas’s death prompted a police crackdown that led to the arrest of Michaloliakos and other leading party figures and prompted the judicial investigation that led to their trial.

A total of 69 suspects, including all GD’s MPs, face charges ranging from membership of a criminal organization to murder. Of the 69 suspects, 44 appeared in court on Monday with 24 absentees and another defendant said to have died. The trial was attended by more than 100 lawyers though the reason given for its postponement was that one defendant did not have legal representation. Local authorities and residents protested the decision to adjourn the trial as their appeal for the proceedings to be relocated to another venue is not to be heard until May 7. Locals object to the trial taking place at the prison as they fear unrest. Schools remained closed on Monday and police set up barriers outside the prison to keep rival groups of protesters apart.

Meanwhile three of Fyssas’s friends claimed to have been assaulted by GD supporters while on their way to the trial. Two of the men, who are witnesses for the prosecution, were briefly hospitalized for minor injuries.