Extra police officers will be deployed across Athens on Wednesday, as the leadership of the Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn faces a historic court verdict.
The verdict is due to be announced by an Athens Criminal Appeals Court at 11:00am.
18 former lawmakers from the party founded in the 1980s, are among 69 defendants who have been on trial for the past five years.
Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and other former parliament members face at least 10 years in prison if found guilty on charges of membership in a criminal organization. Dozens of others on trial, party members and alleged associates, face convictions on charges that range from murder to perjury – most linked to a spate of violent attacks in 2013 that included the fatal stabbing of Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas and attacks on immigrants and left-wing activists.
A number of rallies against the group are planned for when the session begins on Wednesday at a high court located a few hundred meters from the city’s police headquarters in Athens.
Human rights group Amnesty International which took part in and helped organise a network to record racist violence in Greece, said the verdict would boost the efforts of those trying to prosecute hate crimes. “The accusations against the leaders and members of Golden Dawn, including the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, expose a fissure that exists not just within Greece but across Europe and beyond,” said Nils Muiznieks, Europe director at Amnesty.
“The impact of this verdict, in what is an emblematic trial of an extreme far-right party with an aggressive anti-migrant and anti-human rights stance, will be felt far beyond Greece’s borders,” he added.
Golden Dawn denies any direct link to the attacks and described the trial and charges brought against the party’s leadership as an “unprecedented conspiracy” that was aimed at cutting short its rise in popularity.
“Unfortunately for [our adversaries], the court’s decision tomorrow is based on the criminal case and not a political one,” Golden Dawn said on Tuesday.
In an interview with Efimerida ton Syntakton last weekend, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hailed his own party’s role in taking down Golden Dawn and bringing its leader to trial for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas.
“Our country’s experience from the disastrous passage of the nazi formation of Golden Dawn was traumatic, painful, and unfortunately, very bloody… I feel satisfaction that the arguments of democracy banished it from parliament and the rule of law from our daily lives,” he said.
Noting that Greece had suffered from Nazism, Mitsotakis noted that “there is no room in our country for its supporters and imitators. Bigoted nationalism we counter with genuine patriotism, totalitarianism with pluralism, conflict with dialogue, division with unity, and extremism with reason.”
On his part, in an interview with the same newspaper, main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras said that only a guilty verdict for Golden Dawn will serve as a vindication.
He stressed that “the nazi criminals that for years plunged our neighborhoods in terror and blood” must end up behind bars.
“Golden Dawn are no longer in parliament and after the conclusion of the trial, the members of this criminal gang must go to prison,” he said, noting that the end of the trial was a historic moment for Greek democracy.