It has already been a year since the allegedly neonazi organisation Golden Dawn in Greece has been brought to trial, and shocking descriptions about its criminal activities surface every day. The civil action initiative jailgoldendawn, seeking to raise public awareness and to expose Golden Dawn’s criminal actions, posts daily updates from inside the court room in Athens. (You can find the original post here.)
Kevin Ovenden reports from the trial of Golden Dawn, the most far-reaching trial of fascist/neonazi criminal activity in Europe since the Nuremberg process following the Second World War.
Seck Khadim, former president of the Senegalese community association and a grocery shop keeper in American Square in Athens continued his evidence today.
He currently works as an interpreter. He told the court of how Golden Dawn had established “patrols” in the square and the neighbouring Kipseli area in 2012 and 2013, leading to violent assaults on immigrants and others.
The patrols “terrorised and threatened” immigrants and demanded money in order for the fascists “not to close your shop”. One Cameroonian shopkeeper’s store was burnt down.
The picture that emerged was a combination of racial violence and attempted ethnic cleansing of the area along with a simpler and more profitable motivation for the Golden Dawn squads: they ran a protection racket.
Seck was able to identify in photographs a number of prominent Golden Dawn members who are on trial or have already been convicted of other crimes.
Kipseli is home to a number of African immigrants in Athens from various countries – Congo, Senegal, Cameroon, Tanzania and others. Seck described how the fascists’ patrols targeted the Africans, who banded together to resist.
“They wore uniforms, like an assault battalion,” he told the court, “Black trousers and T-shirts with the emblem of Golden Dawn.”
He described the first attacks dating back to 2012. That was when Golden Dawn was making significant advances and was the year of the near fatal attack on the Egyptian fisherman in the Perama neighbourhood to the south of Athens. Kipseli is inner-city and to the north of the centre.
“I was stood outside of my shop one afternoon,” he said, “and I saw them chasing African children armed with clubs and iron bars. It must have been in September.” The attack on the Egyptian fishermen was two months before.
He went on to describe how the Golden Dawn squads would stop people and ask for their identity papers, as if they were themselves the police force.
In cross-examination lawyers for Golden Dawn again stooped to outright racist innuendo and worse.
One asked, “Why is it that with all the coloured Africans, the only profession that you practise is to open a bar?”
In the previous court session the dozens of Golden Dawn lawyers had tried to create a disruption by shouting that the bars run by the immigrants were “pick-up joints”, insidiously suggesting that these black men who were targeted by the fascists were something to do with pimping.
The presiding judge silenced those antics last week. She turned to the fascists’ lawyers claiming that the bars were somehow connected to prostitution and said: “And so do any of you have personal testimony to support that accusation?” They fell silent. But the pattern already seen in the court over the last two years of attempts to humiliate and racially abuse immigrant witnesses continued from the defence lawyers today.
So Seck was asked “you say that you were told you were bringing bad luck to the area, but perhaps you were creating problems and incidents. Isn’t that it?”
He responded calmly that that was not the case. That a few people ran bars to make a living and others did all sorts of other jobs.
They were not the source of any problem. The reason why they were attacked by Golden Dawn, he said, was because:
“they do not want us because of their ideology. They do not want gay people or black people or people who do not believe as they do”.
“They think they are better than us. Yes – we Africans did get angry in response. So we demonstrated. But we did not respond with violence.”
A measure of the dignity of the African communities in Athens could be taken by the calm and confident responses the former president of the Senegalese community association gave in the face of provocative questioning.
It will be seen again in three weeks time when those communities rally with the anti-racist movement on 18 March – as they have done annually for four years – in Athens on a nationwide day of protests against racism.
Meanwhile, the fascists’ defence lawyers are increasingly relying on stunts as they are not only incapable of dealing with the mountain of prosecution evidence, some of it is apparently unknown to them, as they have not bothered to read the massive case files fully.
So at the end of last week they made an outrageous procedural motion to have anti-fascist lawyer Thanasis Kampagiannis excluded from the trial.
There is an article in the Greek penal code – Article 234 – which states (among other categories) that a lawyer in a trial cannot translate in court for a client or witness. The rationale behind such a rule is obvious.
Over three years ago, well before this trial and before being a lawyer for any party in it, Kampagiannis had stepped in to translate in a deposition for one of the Cameroonian witnesses now called in this case.
That was perfectly normal and proper, no rule was broken then or subsequently and there is self-evidently no conflict of interest or potential for the court’s proceedings now to have any appearance of being compromised.
The stunt by the fascists was desperate and would be laughable. But in a bad sign the district attorney did not immediately dismiss it last week, instead saying that the objection should be considered.
The judges did so over the long weekend and threw it out unceremoniously today. The fascists’ lawyers will not be able so easily to deal with the pressure from the anti-fascist movement in the court, and Kampagiannis examined the Senegalese witness today.
The credence given to an obviously frivolous move from the defence lawyers last week by the district attorney is not without consequence, however.
Golden Dawn is under great pressure and its hardcore members feel it. But the poor response of the district attorney last week meant that the fascists’ leaders had a story to tell their followers over the weekend. They could project some conspiracy involving the “Communist Left and George Soros” undermining the rules of the Greek legal system – and focusing that violent hatred on the anti-fascist lawyers in this case.
The online propaganda was feeble in terms of any influence over any beyond the fascist core. But its vitriol and violence are reminders of what is at stake in this trial.
Featured pictured: AFP