Greek court considers 15-year sentences for Golden Dawn leaders

Greek court considers 15-year sentences for Golden Dawn leaders

A Greek court on Tuesday will consider sentences of up to 15 years in prison against the leading members of infamous neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, nearly a week after their conviction in a landmark trial.

The court prosecutor will propose sentences for more than 50 party members found guilty last week, including long-term leader Nikos Michaloliakos and his inner circle. The proposal will then be debated by a panel of three judges, with decisions expected by Thursday.

The court on Monday threw out a last-ditch effort by a top defendant, independent Member of the European Parliament Ioannis Lagos, to delay the sentencing by having the original panel of three judges recused for bias.

It also denied requests by defence lawyers to consider mitigating factors when sentencing Michaloliakos, Lagos and five other former party lawmakers, who were convicted last week of running a criminal organisation.

Lagos on Monday said the judges “demanded the blood of … innocent people and their families”, adding that he planned to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Golden Dawn trial has been described as one of the most important in Greece’s political history. More than 50 defendants were convicted of crimes ranging from running a criminal organisation, murder and assault to illegal weapons possession.

Twitter account suspended

The crimes carried out by Golden Dawn include the 2013 cold-blooded murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas and the beating of Egyptian fishermen in 2012 and communist trade unionists in 2013, the court established.

Michaloliakos has rejected his conviction as a political witch-hunt.

“We were condemned over our ideas,” he tweeted last week.

“When illegal immigrants are the majority in Greece, when [the government] hands over everything to Turkey, when millions of Greeks are unemployed on the street, they will remember Golden Dawn.”

Twitter later suspended his account.

Prosecutors had argued that Michaloliakos ran his party under a military-style hierarchy modelled on Hitler’s Nazi party, with himself as a leader for more than 30 years.

A search of party members’ homes in 2013 uncovered firearms and other weapons, as well as Nazi memorabilia.

Tapping into anti-austerity and anti-migrant anger during Greece’s 10-year-long debt crisis, Golden Dawn for a time was the third most popular party in the country.

The party was in parliament from 2012 onwards, with its lawmakers repeatedly shocking the chamber with provocative and aggressive behaviour. It failed to win a single seat in last year’s parliamentary election.