Witness and former member says GD a ‘military style organization’

Witness and former member says GD a ‘military style organization’

One of five key witnesses at the trial into the suspected criminal activities of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn told judges on Friday that the party was run like a military style organization with a strict hierarchy that organized attacks against migrants and other perceived enemies.

The witness, a former Golden Dawn member, is under protective custody and addressed the special court at Piraeus's Korydallos Prison anonymously from police headquarters in downtown Athens, in the presence of a prosecutor and a misdemeanors judge. His voice was digitally altered to protect his identity.

A member of GD from 2012 to 2013, the witness said that during his time with the party he had received military style training at a facility in Malakasa, north of Athens, and participated in drills for attacks on migrants and other targets. He added that the Malakasa training sessions were also attended by Giorgos Roupakias, the Golden Dawner who has allegedly confessed to killing rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013 – the incident that sparked the investigation into the far-right party. He also said that former paratrooper Ilias Kasidiaris, an MP and the party's spokesman, monitored the training sessions and took part in them.

“I went to Malakasa for training three times. It was tough; very painful. There were around 30 or 35 of us and different trainers, one of whom was a military man. Roupakias was also there; he was a group captain, he had a rank and was allowed everywhere, unlike us. He spoke to the big guys,” said the witness, backing prosecution claims that Roupakias was not acting alone when he stabbed Fyssas to death but on orders from above.

“Kasidiaris also came to observe, but he trained us once in martial arts,” the former Golden Dawn member said.

He went on to describe the structure and methods of the so-called “storm detachments,” attack squads named after the Nazi Sturmabteilung who target mainly migrant workers, as well as individuals or groups openly opposed to the party.

“Each detachment had 20 or 30 people. They wore black pants and a GD t-shirt in the Nikaia chapter, and camouflage pants and the GD t-shirt in Piraeus, and we carried big sticks that were supposed to look like flags. The detachments were for foreigners and those who didn't like Golden Dawn. We had a commander who have the signal for an attack and we carried it out,” he said.

The witness added that all decisions involved party leader Nikos Michaloliakos. “No one could take the decision for such an action without him knowing about it.”

The witness described a specific attack against a migrant, without specifying the location or date: “We hit a Pakistani; he got hurt really bad. We were on 20 motorcycles with two people on each. The attack lasted about 20 minutes.”

Golden Dawn has been accused of carrying out dozens of similar assaults, at least two fatal.

Asked why he left the party, the witness said: “I didn't want to become a killer.” He also apologized to the family of the 34-year-old singer – a vocal opponent of Golden Dawn – adding that he was not at the scene of the stabbing.

The witness said that after testifying to a deputy prosecutor of the Supreme Court in the wake of Fyssas's killing, he and members of his family had been threatened.

The testimony was not without incident, however, as the defense claimed to hear a voice in the video prompting the witness on what to say, despite assurances from the judicial officials in the witness room at Athens police headquarters. The complaint prompted the testimony to be postponed until next Wednesday.

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