Golden Dawn leadership set to take the stand
Six years after musician and rapper Pavlos Fyssas was murdered by a self-professed member of Golden Dawn and over four years after the trial into the neo-Nazi party got under way, the time is nearing for its 18 former lawmakers to take the stand.
The signs of the case’s impact on the party are not limited to its failure to elect any lawmakers in July’s national polls, after almost 400 days of hearings. A succession of defections by high-ranking officials, infighting, leadership challenges, the formation of new far-right groups, and the party’s recent departure from its Mesogeion Avenue headquarters in northern Athens all point to a profound crisis in the ranks of Golden Dawn.
Lawyers with the prosecution say that the party’s former lawmakers will likely start taking the stand to respond to accusations that Golden Dawn constitutes a criminal organization in mid-October.
If the hearings continue at the pace they have in recent months, it is also likely that the presentation of evidence will be completed within November, with closing arguments in December and January, and a verdict in the first quarter of 2020.
September 12 marked the sixth anniversary of Fyssas’ death in the Piraeus suburb of Keratsini. Giorgos Roupakias, who has allegedly confessed to stabbing the musician, has been under house arrest since March 18, 2016, allowed only to leave his home for the purposes of the trial. It took 368 days of hearings in this drawn-out case before the bench could question Roupakias last July.
The extremely important nature of the case, the large number of witnesses, a massive volume of evidentiary material and a string of procedural issues have beset the trial with delays.
One of the first issues that had to be addressed before the case could even get to court was the lifting of the implicated lawmakers’ parliamentary immunity. In April 2014, investigative magistrates Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou appealed to Parliament’s spokesman at the time, Vangelis Meimarakis, to ensure that there were no delays. However, as a result of the Easter holidays and local elections, the immunity of party chief Nikos Michaloliakos and former lawmakers Yiannis Lagos and Christos Pappas was not lifted until June 2014.
The trial began on April 20, 2015, amid numerous problems, including issues with the venue and the fact that the judges were not assigned exclusively to this case. A lengthy strike by lawyers in 2016 put a temporary freeze on the trial.
The pace picked up after that and more than 100 prosecution witnesses have since testified. Less than half of the witnesses submitted by the defense have appeared.
One person who has been there every single day that the court convened is Pavlos Fyssas’ mother, Magda. “I owe it to Pavlos. I feel as though he is there himself to face them,” she told Kathimerini in earlier comments. “But this trial is not just about me; it concerns all of us.”