Fair Trials Should Follow Greek Indictments of Golden Dawn
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomed news that Greek prosecutors have recommended indicting 70 suspects in connection with years of violent attacks by alleged members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. The organization repeated its call for a rigorous and credible prosecution that meets the highest European judicial standards, including full protection of the rights of the accused.
“The Greek government is prosecuting Golden Dawn lawmakers and other suspects for their alleged crimes, not their Nazi ideology. This is an appropriate way to hold accountable those allegedly responsible for organizing and perpetrating severe human rights abuses including hundreds of violent attacks, weapons violations, and at least two murders,” said Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron. “However, if the prosecution does not fully respect the rights of the accused, it could inadvertently validate Golden Dawn’s claim that the case is a politically motivated attack on an elected party by its chief rival.”
The antisemitic, xenophobic, homophobic Golden Dawn party burst into Greek politics in 2010, winning 18 seats in Parliament in 2012. Its top leaders were arrested in September 2013, following the murder of an anti-fascist musician. The party nevertheless won more than 10 percent of the vote in the May 2014 European elections, gaining three seats in the European Parliament as well as a number of local offices. The party’s rise is documented in a recent report by Human Rights First, “We’re not Nazis, but…The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care.”
Golden Dawn founder and party leader Nikolas Michaloliakos appeared before the Greek Parliament in June wearing what he called “handcuffs of honor,” and accusing the ruling party of political persecution. Nevertheless, his fellow lawmakers voted to lift the parliamentary immunity of Michaloliakos so that he could be prosecuted on charges of “directing a criminal organization.” Golden Dawn supporters outside the Parliament building sang the Nazi SS anthem.
The Golden Dawn lawmakers have denied all wrongdoing. The Greek media has published numerous photographs and videos seized from the suspects’ homes, showing them with swastikas, giving the Heil Hitler salute, and at what appears to be a paramilitary training camp. While such evidence may be important in establishing motivation or preparation for crimes, it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove that the defendants, however offensive their political beliefs, were responsible for the specific offenses, which include “directing a criminal organization,” weapons charges and at least one murder. The Greek government must ensure conditions of a fair trial.
A three-judge panel must approve the prosecutor’s request to indict the 70 suspects. The prosecutor also recommended dropping charges against 13 other suspects.