The trial against Greek’s far-right and self-proclaimed fascist political party Golden Dawn started on 20th of April this year. From the beginning is marked with controversy. Sixty nine defendant members of the neo-Nazi political party, including its founder and leader Nikos Michaloliakos, as well as lower level operatives like police officers, navy officers, and school teachers, are accused of operating a criminal organization.
Called the most publicised trial in decades, it is bringing little or almost no interest in international or European media. (With the exception of few rare visitors, I am the only foreign reporter in the courtroom all the time.) It is also rare to see local media deeply involved in case, and at many hearings photojournalists are not present in the courtroom.
This is especially worrying because of escalation of threats and violence by Golden Dawn members in last three hearings (including the one yesterday). When defendant Giannis Kazantzoglou, who is accused of participating in the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member, was identified by a witness, he responded in a manner that suggested threats of reprisal.
“You remember me from two years ago!?” Kazantzoglou shouted at witness Dimitra Zorzou, after she had identified him as a passenger in the car driven by the murderer of Fyssas. “Let me go out and I will show her!” Kazantzoglou continued, in the presence of police, judges, and lawyers.
The civil right lawyers reacted immediately and the judge stopped the hearing. However there were no consequences for the threats against the young girl who decided to testify despite threats she received before her testimony. (The Greek newspaper Proto Thema published the names and descriptions of all witnesses in trial.) President of judges Maria Lepenioti stayed mute about the incident.
The group of attorneys who are defending the accused are regularly threatening in the courtroom. In one incident Giorgos Michalolias, nephew of the Golden Dawn leader yelled towards members of the Fyssas family: “Come out and I will show you!”
Yesterday another incident followed: 28-year-old German journalist of Turkish descent Alp Kayserilioglu, who was present on the trial for the first time, was assaulted by ultra-right wing lawyer who grabbed him by the throat and then slapped Kayserilioglu’s friend, a Greek girl, Dimitra Tzakou.
The incident outside of the courtroom brought furious reaction from civil right lawyers. One of them, Thanassis Kampagiannis, spoke in front of the judge: “The well known defender Eystatios Karidomatis attacked two innocent people outside of the courtroom. We demand reaction.” The judge Lepenioti made a fast conclusion: “It was not in the courtroom, so it doesn’t concern us.”
It’s necessary to mention that attack was done in front of police (at least 50 officers are always present in courtroom and around). “The policeman who was present during the attack on me just a minute ago denied that he saw something,” Dimitra Tzakaou admitted to me, in a state of shock.
All lawyers defending victims decided to leave at one point. President Lepenioti simply decided to continue the trial. “We have no time. We need to proceed,” was her excuse. The public reacted angrily. “It didn’t happen in square. It happened in front of eyes of police and under the roof of the court itself!” I heard.
Finally, the 35th hearing of the trial against Golden Dawn ended on the request of the yesterday’s witness.
Mixed feelings of unpleasantness, concern, and shock were visible on faces leaving the high – security Korydallos prison. Those of witnesses, victims, and civil right lawyers, of course.