Parties and criminal organizations

We all have our own views of what Golden Dawn is. Some choose to call it a criminal organization but, legally speaking, the neo-Nazi grouping is not a criminal organization; it is a political party that has the same privileges and obligations as all other parties in the Greek Parliament. However, describing Golden Dawn as a political party does not mean that it doesn’t accommodate criminals within its ranks; nor does it mean that these suspected criminals have not set up a criminal organization. This can be the case with all parties, but even more so with neo-Nazi groupings with a soft spot for violent, lawbreaking behavior.

What we are now seeing is not the prosecution of ideas – including of Nazi ideas, notwithstanding the fact that Greece has mourned millions that died at the hands of the German Nazis during the Second World War. To the extent that there is evidence implicating members of Golden Dawn in organized crime, then we can speak of a criminal organization, period.

At the end of the day, the party will continue to operate. It will continue with its appalling bigotry under the leadership of Eleni Zaroulia, a party MP and the wife of party leader Nikos Michaloliakos. So there is no question of banning the party altogether (although it’s worth noting that nepotism is king also inside Golden Dawn).

There’s disagreement too over the procedure followed by judicial authorities in arresting the Golden Dawn MPs as well as the use of the special procedure for in flagrante crimes. Some people said that this was the first time Greek deputies had been arrested since the military coup of 1967. But those skeptics chose to forget that back then, they were arrested because they were deputies, and not because they were implicated in murders, stabbings and the harassment of foreign immigrants and political opponents.

To the extent that there is evidence that links Michaloliakos and other Golden Dawn members with organized criminal activity, the judges will have to enforce the penal code regarding organized crime. And it makes one wonder how many of the critics who are now crying foul over the supposed violation of lawmakers’ asylum status (interestingly, abolition of this protection had been a central point of the far-right party’s campaign) are suddenly invoking the provisions over a case that does not concern corruption allegations but charges of murder.

Sure, the case file could be brought to Parliament, then debated by various committees before being debated before the plenary so that the accused would get a chance to address the House and the MPs would get a chance to vote (meanwhile, of course, those suspected of criminal offenses would be busy destroying the evidence). Membership of a criminal organization is a serial felony and on-the-spot arrest for this offense exists for the same reason that we have pretrial custody. It is an extreme measure that must not be abused, but it is necessary in the investigation of cases.

The country has entered uncharted waters with Golden Dawn’s entrance into Parliament and the dismantling of this suspected criminal organization within the party. Democracy must protect everyone’s rights, but it must also protect itself – that is, not make concessions to a possible criminal organization just because it happens to live under the roof of a certain party.