Following guilty verdicts against the Golden Dawn group over a series of crimes including murder, Athens has seen a day of jubilation, tears and tear gas.
As a landmark trial spanning more than five years concluded, Golden Dawn was found guilty of four charges – significantly of being a criminal organisation.
Tens of thousands people who had converged around the heavily guarded court complex in anticipation of the judgment, roared in excitement as the news of the landmark decision emerged.
People hugged, chanted and clapped at the news, and there was a sense of relief as well as joy in the air.
In emotional scenes, Pavlos Fyssas’s mother, Magda, who has waited for more than seven years to see justice served for her son, punched the air outside the court and said “you did it, my son,” while members of his family cried and hugged each other nearby.
Protesters young and old embraced and chanted the names of Golden Dawn’s victims – Pavlos Fyssas and Shehzad Luqman, who was 27 when he was stabbed to death by Golden Dawn affiliates in 2013.
But the joy was cut short by the use of tear gas and a water cannon against the largely peaceful group.
A small number of people had reportedly started throwing objects at the police, but after dancing and clapping, many who had gathered outside the court were left struggling to breathe amid copious waves of tear gas.
However, the tear gas was not enough to dampen the protesters’ spirits as they left the court and headed towards Syntagma Square, chanting anti-fascist songs.
Greek PM and President welcome Golden Dawn convictions:
Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, also hailed the guilty verdicts as a victory, writing on Twitter that “democracy has won.”
“Αfter the Greek people voted the neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn out of Parliament in the last election, today the Greek justice system convicted its leadership of operating as a criminal organisation. A truly historic day for Greece, democracy and the rule of law,” Mitsotakis wrote.
This was followed by the Greek president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who said the judgment was an important day for democracy and evidence Greek institutions were able to “fend off any attempt to undermine them.”
Pavlos Fyssas’ murderer claims remorse to appeal for smaller sentence:
During the Golden Dawn trial, Giorgos Roupakias was also found guilty of all charges related to the murder of Pavlos Fyssas.
But he has appealed for a smaller sentence on the grounds that he feels “sincere remorse” for stabbing the 34-year-old musician to death.
Giorgos Roupakias also asked judges to take into consideration his clean criminal record before the September 2013 killing as they prepare to punish him for the crime of premeditated murder, which carries a life sentence.
Addressing the court, Roupakias’ lawyer said his client has been “demonised” by the media and has been unable to leave his 50 square meter house for the four-and-a-half years since he was released from pretrial custody.
The court will deliver sentences later this week or by Monday at the latest.
Greek MEPs call for expulsion of ex-Golden Dawn reps from Parliament:
Greek left-wing lawmakers in the European Parliament urged President David Sassoli to expel two former Golden Dawn lawmakers from the House after the court verdict.
Movement For Change (KINAL) MEP, Nikos Androulakis, and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MEPs urged Sassoli to expel Ioannis Lagos.
In his letter, Androulakis said, “Greek justice took the first step. I urge you to take the next one.”
The MEPs also called for the expulsion of MEP Athanasios Konstantinou, who was also a Golden Dawn member.
Lagos and Konstantinou are listed as “Independent” in official Europarliament pages.