On October 7th, 2020, a historic ruling was made by the Athens Appeals Court, giving verdicts for 68 members of the far-right political party, Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn was founded by Nikolaos Michaloliakos in the 1980s, with the attempt to return Greece to a right-wing military dictatorship and to take back land that previously belonged to Greece in Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Republic of North Macedonia. Throughout its existence, this party gained attention and power by tapping into the anger and despair of the Greek citizens during both the European financial and migrant crises. Golden Dawn pointed the blame for Greece’s economic and social downturn on refugees and foreigners and promised to “return Greece to Greeks”. Through this, it quickly gained a lot of support from the public, obtaining 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament in 2012, and becoming the third most popular party in the 2015 election. They used this attention from the public to cultivate hate against minorities by organizing military camps and training their members to handle weapons and practice martial arts to physically assault their victims.
Although Golden Dawn denied being a neo-Nazi movement, the party’s senior members were actively praising Adolf Hitler, used Nazi symbols, and created their badge that resembled a swastika. Ever since its existence, the party’s members and followers have been viciously attacking and even killing leftists, members of the LGBTQ community, anti-nationalist “traitors”, and most of all, migrants, and refugees. Most of these crimes, however, went unpunished because of the silent nationalistic support from the police and the party freely continued spreading such hate. This changed, however, when Pavlos Fyssas, a popular anti-fascist rapper, was murdered by a Golden Dawn supporter, Giorgos Roupakias. His death marked one of the rare moments that the violence and brutal attacks organized by this party triggered a response from the official Greek authorities. This led to several Golden Dawn members and MPs being arrested and taken to pre-trial detention on the suspicion of having created a criminal organization, and the official trial began in late April of 2015.
During the trial, chaos rose throughout the nation as the chief prosecutor of the trial, Adamantia Economou, argued for the freedom of the political party. She continuously made claims stating that there was no evidence that the members of Golden Dawn took any part in the organizing or in carrying out the continuous attacks. Outrageous reasoning was used, claiming it would be unjust to charge the defendants as they have strong connections with their families and a deep love for animals. The Greek citizens were appalled by these claims and took to social media to raise attention on the situation worldwide and put pressure on the court for reaching a tough verdict.
Now, more than five years later, the founder and leader of the party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, has been charged with 14 years in prison, for not only masterminding the illegal activities that the organization was involved in but for also turning the extreme Nazi movement into a political party whose vision was to attack and destroy the enemies through the use of violent forces and hit squads. While six other prominent members were charged with operating a criminal organization, the court had more than enough evidence to find all 68 defendants guilty with charges of illegal weapons possession and multiple murders and violent attacks on innocent immigrants and political opponents.
October 7th marked a very powerful moment in history as it was the first just verdict of a nationalistic group after the Nuremberg Court ruling in 1946 against the Third Reich. While politicians from across the world stated that this decision sent a powerful message to Europe that “fascism has no place in our life”, celebration and relief spread through the streets of Greece as this ruling officially ended the racist and ruthless organization.