U.S. Should Support Fair Trial of Golden Dawn Members as Trial Begins
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today called on the U.S. government to support a full and fair judicial proceeding in the Greek case against members of the virulently antisemitic and racist political party Golden Dawn. The trial, which begins Monday, will include at least 70 members of the party, 18 of whom served in the previous parliament. They now to stand trial for belonging to a criminal organization that has been accused of dozens of violent attacks.
“It is important to remember that these defendants are being prosecuted for their alleged violent crimes, not their Nazi ideology. There are indications of Golden Dawn involvement in several murders and a campaign of violent hate attacks,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke, who will be in Athens at the end of the month. “We encourage a full, timely, transparent, and fair trial that meets international standards. This will ensure that the trial is a step toward justice for the victims and their families. It will also allow the Greek people a full view into the activities of the party.”
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.
Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to support a full and fair trial by sending observers to the proceedings. The organization also notes that the United States should aid in advancing reforms to the Greek law enforcement system that would increase its capacity to investigate and punish hate crimes.
Previous criminal trials involving Golden Dawn leaders have been marred by courtroom intimidation by the party’s supporters targeting judges, prosecutors, witnesses, and victims. There have also been reports that protests and counter-protests are scheduled to take place Monday as this trial begins.
“We call upon the Greek government to ensure an environment free of intimidation while upholding the right to free speech and freedom of assembly,” added Stahnke.
For more information or to speak with Stahnke, contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3318.
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