EU dispatch: Greek neo-Nazi appeal prompts bar association probe as defense lawyer makes Nazi salute inside courtroom – JURIST

Law students from the European Union report for JURIST on legally relevant events in and with the European Union and its member states. Panagiotis Lampropoulos is a graduate of the University of Bristol 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 known for his leftist, anti-fascist ideology, was murdered on the streets of Athens by Giorgos Roupakias. Roupakias was a member of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.

At the time, Golden Dawn was enjoying its first-ever term in the Greek Parliament, having won 6.97% of the vote in the last election, earning it 21 seats. This was because the party took advantage of the deep economic crises of 2008 and 2012, using immigrants as scapegoats for the sufferings of the Greek people. In another election in January 2015, the party would win 6.28% of the vote, this time as the third-strongest party in Parliament, the only party outside of the ruling and opposing SYRIZA and New Democracy parties not to have lost faith in its voters in 2012.

On September 19, 2013, the Greek Minister of Public Order sent a letter to the Prosecutor General of the Athens Supreme Court (“Areios Pagos”), in which he referred to 32 cases of crimes involving members of Golden Dawn and the initiation of a process to prosecute Golden Dawn as a criminal organization. Alleged crimes included the attempted murder of an Egyptian fisherman and members of trade unions linked to the Greek Communist Party, and the murder of Pavlos Fyssas.

A first-instance trial against Golden Dawn began in April 2015, 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 between 6 and 13 years’ imprisonment, depending on the degree of their 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 commits crimes under the orders of its leadership.

Defendants later appealed the decision, beginning proceedings in the Court of Appeals on June 15, 2022.

Last week I personally attended two court hearings, the first of which concluded the testimonies of the murdered Fyssas’ parents and sister. During his mother’s testimony the week before, a defense attorney and prominent Greek right-wing extremist and Holocaust denier, Konstantinos Plevris, gave a Nazi salute in court. As a result, the Athens Bar Association voted to launch an investigation to determine whether Plevris violated anti-racism laws on the following grounds:

  1. that the advocate is by nature a defender of liberty;
  2. that the Hitler salute is absolutely incompatible with the principles and values ​​of the association;
  3. that there is photographic evidence of the behavior of the defense counsel; and
  4. that the court is obliged to apply the rules of substantive and procedural criminal law as long as the relevant act took place during the main hearing.

Plevris’ son, Athanasios Plevris, who currently serves as Health Minister of the ruling New Democracy party and its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, described his father’s actions as brutalization and specifically condemned the fact that the salute took place within the courts and in front of a mother, whose son was killed by persons represented under this symbol.

Testimony from friends of Fyssas is due to begin after several procedural issues were discussed on Wednesday, with Pavlos Seirlis, a close friend of the murder victim, testifying late that same day. According to his statement, Pavlos Fyssas was sitting in a cafe watching a football match between his beloved Olympiacos and Paris-Saint-Germain, where a group of men in black and military fatigues “were out exchanging messages”. After leaving the café, Fyssas and his friends found that they could not reach their cars as they were surrounded by 30 to 40 men in military uniforms. A police officer warned her that it was “best to run”. They had been attacked in waves and all but Fyssas managed to escape. His friends later found out that Fyssas had been murdered at the police station. Roupakias found them calm and offered them a cigarette after murdering their friend.

The process from June 2022 is expected to take 18 to 24 months.