The leaders of Greece’s fascist Golden Dawn party were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for running a criminal gang linked with hate crimes.
Presiding judge, Maria Lepenioti, handed down 13-year jail terms to six former lawmakers, including Golden Dawn’s leader Nikos Mihaloliakos, a 62-year-old mathematician and Holocaust denier, at the Athens Criminal Appeals Court.
The court also handed a life sentence to Golden Dawn member Yiorgos Roupakias for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist rapper, and 10 years in jail for belonging to a criminal group.
Other former lawmakers were sentenced to five-seven years in prison for being members of a criminal group. The court will decide later this week if any of the sentences can be suspended.
“Today’s sentencing of the neo-Nazi organisation demonstrates the resilience of our democracy and the rule of law,” Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said in a tweet on Wednesday evening.
“This verdict marks the end of a traumatic period in Greece’s history. Together we move forward with this chapter closed.”
Human rights groups and immigrant associations have also praised the conviction of Golden Dawn’s leadership.
“Survivors of these crimes have a right to see justice done and this goes a long way to showing that the state will not tolerate such vicious attacks,” Eva Cosse at Human Rights Watch told The Associated Press.
“Racist and xenophobic violence is intended to send a hateful message, and it’s the prosecutor’s role to send an equally powerful counter-message, and for the court to apply an appropriate sentence that reflects the gravity of the crime.”
Golden Dawn, founded in the 1980s and once Greece’s third-largest political party, entered parliament for the first time in 2012 at the peak of an economic crisis on a fiercely anti-immigrant platform, tapping into public anger over painful austerity measures and what many saw as a corrupt and cozy political establishment.
Golden Dawn’s top figures were arrested in 2013, after the killing of Fyssas prompted huge protests across Greece and led to a government crackdown on the party.
Police found unlicensed weapons and Nazi flags in the homes of party members.
A total 68 had been on trial, including the entire Golden Dawn leadership, accused of four crimes.
Last week, when Golden Dawn was found guilty, thousands of anti-racist protesters celebrated the landmark verdict.
“Pavlos, you did it!” the rapper’s mother, Magda, shouted outside the court after the verdict was announced, her hands raised in triumph.
She has attended most of the hearing’s 453 sessions and was again present in court on Wednesday.