4:23pm

Thu October 3, 2013
Europe

Supporters Of Greek Neo-Nazi Party Tested By Arrests

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 9:38 am

The Greek lawmaker who leads the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party is behind bars, awaiting trial for allegedly running a criminal organization. Nikolaos Michaloliakos' views are racist and anti-Semitic, and he's been blamed for inciting violence, especially against immigrants.

He says he's not a criminal and is being persecuted for his beliefs.

But will shutting down the party shut down its support?

When Michaloliakos arrived in court late Wednesday night, escorted by police in balaclavas, hundreds of his supporters were waiting for him, chanting: "Blood! Honor! Golden Dawn!"

The motto comes from Nazi Germany's Hitler Youth, but these true believers waved Greek flags.

"Victory! Victory!" the Golden Dawn leader shouted as he left the court in handcuffs early Thursday.

Supporters such as these helped the once-marginal party win nearly 7 percent of the vote last year — when Michaloliakos compared himself to Julius Caesar after the polls closed.

"I came, I saw, I conquered," he said at the time. "You slung mud at me. You defamed me. You silenced me. I defeated you."

And Michaloliakos says he will keep fighting, even though he and more than 30 members of his party are now in a high-security prison near the port of Piraeus.

He is accused of running Golden Dawn like a Nazi-style gang — training hit squads and ordering violent attacks. A date for his trial has not been set.

Political scientist Nikos Marantzidis says the more than 400,000 people who voted for Golden Dawn will now see what the party really does.

"The majority of the voters of Golden Dawn, until now, they didn't believe that the leadership of the organization were some criminal persons," Marantzidis says. "For them, they were some people with strong nationalist or other ideas, and of course, first of all, with anti-systemic behaviors."

But their anti-establishment ideas are often combined with anti-immigrant hatred.

Egyptian fisherman Abu Hamed Dahi has been afraid of Greeks since a gang broke into his home last year and nearly beat one of his housemates to death.

"Now if anyone passes me and stares, the truth is I am afraid," he says. "When a car full of people slows down behind me, I am afraid."

Golden Dawn members say immigrants are subhuman and that Greece should be cleaned of them.

This kind of language could be punished if hate crime legislation in parliament becomes law, says criminal lawyer Tania Dionyssopoulou.

"And these law proposals refer to punishing publicly instigating hatred or violent acts against persons or groups of persons because of their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or sex," she says.

But no such law would have protected Greek rapper Pavlos Fyssas — who was allegedly killed by a Golden Dawn member last month.

His death sparked the crackdown on the party.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Greece, the lawmaker who leads the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party is behind bars and awaiting trial along with more than 30 members of his party. Many are happy to see him punished. His views are racist and anti-Semitic, and he's been blamed for inciting violence, especially against immigrants.

He says he's not a criminal and he's being - says he's being persecuted for his beliefs. Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: When Nikolaos Michaloliakos arrived in court late Wednesday night, hundreds of his supporters were waiting for him. Blood, honor, Golden Dawn, they chanted. The motto comes from Nazi Germany's Hitler youth, but these true believers waved Greek flags. This crowd helped the once-marginal party win nearly 7 percent of the vote last year when Michaloliakos compared himself to Julius Caesar after the polls closed.

NIKOLAOS MICHALOLIAKOS: (Through Translator) I came, I saw, I conquered. You slung mud at me. You defamed me. You silenced me. I defeated you.

KAKISSIS: And Michaloliakos says he will keep fighting even though he's now in jail at a high-security prison near the port of Piraeus. A date for his trial has not been set.

MICHALOLIAKOS: (Speaking foreign language)

KAKISSIS: Victory, victory, he shouted as he left the court in handcuffs early today. He's accused of running Golden Dawn like a Nazi-style gang, training hit squads and ordering murders and assaults. Political scientist Nikos Marantzidis says the more than 400,000 people who voted for Golden Dawn will now see what the party really does.

NIKOS MARANTZIDIS: The majority of the voters of Golden Dawn, until now, they didn't believe that the leadership of the organization were some criminal persons. For them, they were some people with strong nationalist or other ideas and, of course, first of all, with anti-systemic behaviors.

KAKISSIS: But their anti-system ideas are often combined with anti-immigrant hatred. Abu Hamed Dahi is an Egyptian fisherman. He's been afraid of Greeks since a gang of men broke into his home last year and nearly beat one of his housemates to death.

ABU HAMED DAHI: (Through Translator) Now, if anyone passes me and stares, the truth is, I am afraid. When a car full of people slows down behind me, I am afraid.

KAKISSIS: Golden Dawn members say immigrants are subhuman and say Greece should be cleaned of them. But this kind of language could be punished if hate crime legislation in parliament becomes law, says criminal lawyer Tania Dionyssopoulou.

TANIA DIONYSSOPOULOU: And these law proposals refer to punishing publicly, instigating hatred or violent acts against persons or groups of persons because of their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or sex.

KAKISSIS: But no such law would have protected Greek rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was allegedly killed by a Golden Dawn member last month. His death sparked the crackdown on the party. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

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