U.S. Embassy Urged to Monitor Greek Trial of Antisemitic Party
Washington, D.C—Human Rights First today urged the U.S. Embassy in Greece to monitor the upcoming trial of Golden Dawn members in an effort to encourage transparency, a fair trial, and adherence to the rule of law. The call came in a letter from Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke to the U.S. Ambassador to Greece David Pearce. Seventy members of Golden Dawn, 13 of whom are still serving in the national parliament, are on trial for operating a criminal organization that has been accused of dozens of violent racist and political attacks. The trial reopens tomorrow.
“The United States has a strong interest in the future of Greece. An expression of concern by the United States regarding the Golden Dawn trial is not interference in internal Greek affairs,” wrote Stahnke. “Democratic values such as adherence to the rule of law and checks on abuse of power are at stake in this trial. Anything less than a full and fair proceeding may undermine the Greek public’s belief in those values, something that is already being debated in the context of the economic crisis. These are core American interests, and the United States has a strong stake in the conduct and outcome of the trial.”
The antisemitic, xenophobic, homophobic Golden Dawn party burst into Greek politics in 2012, winning 18 seats in the Greek Parliament. 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. Thirteen of the 18 Golden Dawn parliamentarians under indictment were re-elected to their seats in January 2015. 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.”
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.
Previous criminal trials involving Golden Dawn leaders have been marred by courtroom intimidation by the party’s supporters targeting judges, prosecutors, witnesses, and victims. A prosecution witness was reportedly attacked by Golden Dawn supporters at the opening of the trial on April 20.
“If the trial is to have a lasting impact, both Greece and the international community must see it as a fair and credible prosecution. International attention to the trial will help set the expectation that the Greek government will uphold fair trial standards, as well as underline the importance of justice being served for the victims of violence,” wrote Stahnke. “International monitoring will also highlight evidence of how organized and dangerous Golden Dawn has become, including evidence of how the racist ideology of the Nazis from 70 years ago was translated into concrete action on the streets of Greece and the halls of the Parliament in the 21st Century.”
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