EU Dispatch: Greek neo-Nazi party call sparks bar probe as lawyer gives Nazi salutes in court – JURIST

European Union law students report for JURIST on law-related events in and affecting the European Union and its Member States. Panagiotis Lampropoulos is a recent graduate of Bristol University Law School (UK). He is currently doing one year of compulsory military service in Greece.

On September 17, 2013, Pavlos Fyssas, a Greek hip-hop artist famous for his left-wing anti-fascist ideology was murdered in the streets of Athens by Giorgos Roupakias. Roupakias was a member of Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi Greek political party.

At the time, Golden Dawn was enjoying its first-ever term in the Greek parliament, having won 6.97% of the vote in previous elections, giving it 21 seats. This is because the party took advantage of the deep economic crises of 2008 and 2012, scapegoating immigrants as the source of the misfortunes of the Greek people. Another election in January 2015 would see the party win 6.28% of the vote, this time as the third most powerful party in parliament, standing as the only party outside of the ruling and opposing parties SYRIZA and New Democracy to not not have lost the faith of their constituents in 2012.

On September 19, 2013, the Greek Minister of Public Order sent a letter to the Attorney General of the Athens Supreme Court (“Areios Pagos”) referring to 32 cases of crimes involving Golden Dawn members and calling for the launch of a lawsuit to prosecute Golden Dawn as a criminal organization. The alleged crimes included the attempted murder of an Egyptian fisherman and members of trade unions linked to the Greek Communist Party, as well as the murder of Pavlos Fyssas.

A trial against Golden Dawn began in April 2015 at first instance, and on October 7, 2020, a court ruling found party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and all Golden Dawn MPs guilty of involvement in a criminal organization. They were sentenced to terms ranging from 6 to 13 years in prison depending on their degree of involvement. Giorgos Roupakias was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life plus 14 years. The decision established Golden Dawn as a criminal organization with a hierarchical structure that committed crimes under the orders of its leaders.

The defendants then appealed the decision, launching a case before the Court of Appeal on June 15, 2022.

Last week, I personally attended two court hearings, the first of which saw the testimonies of the parents and sister of the murdered Fyssas concluded. During her mother’s testimony the previous week, a defense attorney and leading Greek far-right figure and Holocaust denier, Konstantinos Plevris, praised the Nazis inside the court. Following this, the Athens Bar Association voted to open an investigation to determine whether Plevris had violated the anti-racism law on the following grounds:

  1. that the lawyer is, by the nature of his function, a defender of freedom;
  2. that the Nazi salute is absolutely incompatible with the principles and values ​​of the association;
  3. that there is photographic evidence of the behavior of defense counsel; and
  4. that as long as the act in question took place during the trial, the court is bound to follow the provisions of substantive and procedural criminal law.

Plevris’ son, Athanasios Plevris, who is currently health minister under the ruling New Democracy party and its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, described his father’s actions as brutality, specifically condemning the fact that the salute took place at inside the courts and in front of a mother whose son was killed by people represented by this symbol.

This week, Plevris doubled down on his actions, giving a Nazi salute twice more. Although it was noted by the judges last week that the salute was made as they were about to leave the court, and therefore did not see it, this time it was made in their presence . Later he said that “there is a [past] court ruling establishing that Konstantinos Plevris is linked to Greek nationalism and not Nazism so don’t listen to the left. We believe in Metaxas and so salute”. Metaxas is a former Greek dictator who declared war on Mussolini’s Italy and fought against Hitler. Plevris finally repeated the salute, making it the third time it has been done during this call.

Following the discussion of several procedural matters on Wednesday, testimony from friends of Fyssas is set to begin, with Pavlos Seirlis, a close friend of the murder victim having already testified later that day. According to his testimony, Pavlos Fyssas was sitting in a café watching a football match between his beloved Olympiacos and Paris-St-Germain, where a group of men dressed in black and military clothes were “on the move , exchanging messages”. After leaving the cafe, Fyssas and his friends realized they couldn’t reach their cars because 30 to 40 men in military uniforms had surrounded them. A policeman warned them that it was better to “run”. They had been attacked in waves and all had managed to escape except Fyssas. His friends later discovered that Fyssas had been murdered while at the police station. Roupakias had calmly found them and offered them a cigarette after murdering their friend.

The trial from June 2022 is expected to last 18 to 24 months.

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