A Greek court is expected Thursday to sentence the 18 former lawmakers of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party, including its leader, a day after the three-member panel of judges delivered a landmark verdict deeming the party a criminal organization.
Wednesday’s verdict was the culmination of a five-year, politically charged trial that involved 68 defendants – party officials, members and alleged supporters – more than 200 witnesses and over 60 lawyers. About 20,000 people held an anti-fascist rally outside the courthouse, and thousands more held a similar rally in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Golden Dawn, founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s, rose to prominence during Greece’s brutal near decade-long financial crisis that began in 2009, and become the country’s third largest party. It was often considered a model for many extreme-right groups in Europe and beyond.
Sparked by the 2013 fatal stabbing of left-wing Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, the trial wrapped four cases into one: Fyssas’ killing; physical attacks against Egyptian fishermen in 2012 and on left-wing activists in 2013; and whether Golden Dawn was operating as a criminal organization.
The court ruled that of the 18 former party lawmakers on trial, seven, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were guilty of leading a criminal organization and face between five and 15 years in prison. The other 11 were deemed guilty of participating in a criminal organization, a charge that carries a potential sentence of five to 10 years.
Giorgos Roupakias, accused of being a party supporter who delivered the fatal stab wounds to Fyssas, was found guilty of murder, and possession and use of a weapon, and faces a potential life sentence. Fifteen others – none of them former lawmakers – were convicted as accomplices.
The lengthy sentencing procedure, where defense lawyers make summations laying out reasons for leniency, began immediately after the verdicts were announced Wednesday and went late into the night. The court ordered a recess until Thursday at 12:30 p.m., with the procedure again likely to extend into the night.
The defendants are not required to be present in court for the verdict or sentencing and can be represented by their lawyers. None of the 18 former lawmakers, who had all served the maximum 18 months in pre-trial detention at the start of the trial, was in court Wednesday.
If the judges impose sentences that are not suspended or not delayed pending appeal, then arrest warrants would be issued. [AP]