Thursday, October 24, 2013

Greece freezes state funding for far-right Golden Dawn party

AP 23 Oct 2013

Greek assembly votes 235-0 to suspend state funding for Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party whose leadership stand accused of criminal activities

Anti-terror police officers escort Nikos Michaloliakos, leader of the Golden Dawn party at the courthouse in Athens, Greece, 02 October 2013.

Anti-terror police officers escort Nikos Michaloliakos, leader of the Golden Dawn party at the courthouse in Athens, Greece, 02 October 2013. Photo: ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU/EPA

Greek lawmakers voted late on Tuesday to suspend state funding for political parties accused of criminal activities, a measure targeting the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn group.

The proposal was backed by the conservative-led governing coalition, the main opposition and a small left wing party – and was voted 235-0 in the 300 seat assembly.

It allows an indefinite funding freeze for parties whose leadership is charged with involvement in a criminal group, or terrorism.

Golden Dawn is under a criminal investigation sparked by last month's fatal stabbing of a Greek rap singer, an attack blamed on a party volunteer. Its leader and two lawmakers have been jailed in pretrial custody as alleged members of a criminal organisation, and another six lawmakers have been stripped of immunity from prosecution to face similar charges.

None of the party leadership has been charged with any direct connection to the killing.

Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights agency, praised the crackdown, but said care must be taken to ensure fair trials.

"I would like to commend the Greek government for having taken action immediately, and very strong action. I think it's very important to differentiate between political work and criminal acts," Jagland told The Associated Press in an interview at the start of a two-day visit to Athens to discuss combating extremism and hate speech.

Golden Dawn says the prosecution of its members is politically motivated.

The fatal stabbing last month led to increasing calls for the party to be banned outright. But Jagland cautioned that could backfire, with similar cases elsewhere in Europe leading to parties re-emerging under different names, or going underground where they are harder to monitor and regulate.

"What is very important is to go after people that are doing crimes, and not mixing up that with politics," said Jagland, who also heads the committee which awards the Nobel Peace Prize.

He didn't comment directly on the party funding bill, saying this was "up to the Greek government," but noted that such a move would not contravene European human rights laws.

"It is actually in most European countries unlawful to do hate speech, incitement to violence, open racism and also denial of the Holocaust," he said.

During a meeting with Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, the Council of Europe head also offered the support of the organisation's legal experts in seeking ways to deal with the Golden Dawn issue.

Jagland was also to meet Wednesday with Greece's prime minister and the ministers for justice and foreign affairs.

Formerly a fringe party, Golden Dawn's popularity soared in recent years as the country sank into a financial depression and unemployment spiralled. Running on an anti-immigrant campaign, it won 18 seats in Parliament and nearly 7 per cent of the vote in 2012 elections.

Party members and supporters have long been blamed for violent attacks, mostly against dark-skinned immigrants but also against left-wing political opponents and gays. Golden Dawn denies any involvement.

"This legal amendment belongs in the trash – it's illegal and unconstitutional," Golden Dawn spokesman and parliament member Ilias Kasidiaris said before the vote.

"They have made this attack on us based on false testimony ... We are the only political party that doesn't play ball with the corrupt system. That is why they are after us."

Edited by Steve Wilson

Greece freezes state funding for far-right Golden Dawn party - Telegraph

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Charity donation for finance minister's family | Politics | Home

 Author: Damian Mac Con Uladh

Riot police stop trade unionists handing over food donation intended for struggling Stournaras family

In a symbolic protest, members of the municipal workers union POE-OTA sought to deliver tomatoes, lentils, vinegar, olives, figs, eggs, raki and a chicken to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who claimed on television recently that he understood the difficulty people had with living on €500 a month

Municipal workers protest with baskets of food outside the finance ministry in Athens, 17 October 2013 (Reuters)

Municipal workers protest with baskets of food outside the finance ministry in Athens, 17 October 2013 (Reuters)

A senior minister who spoke last week about how members of his family, including his mother, are struggling to live on €500 a month has encouraged trade unionists to collect food for his needy relatives.

In a symbolic protest peppered with irony, members of the municipal workers union POE-OTA brought tomatoes, lentils, vinegar, olives, figs, eggs, raki and a whole chicken to the finance ministry, in the hope that they could hand it over to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who claimed on television recently that he understood the difficulty people had in living on €500 a month.

“There are people in my family who live on very little money. My mother, my father-in-law, my mother-in-law … I know very well what it means to live on €500 a month,” he told Mega TV.

After riot police prevented the trade unionists - who were holding posters stating "For Yannis Stournaras' mummy and mummy-in-law, damn it!" - from approaching the ministry, the food was left on nearby Ermou St, the city's main shopping mile, in the hope that the minister could pick it up later.

In a statement released beforehand, the POE-OTA said that it "could not remain indifferent to the plight of Yannis Stournaras' family".

It hoped to "deliver the goods to the finance minister to wholeheartedly express our support to the drama that has befallen his family."

"We believe that Mr Stournaras will appreciate our action," it continued

Charity donation for finance minister's family | Politics | Home

As poverty increases, more citizens turn to municipal social services for survival


More than 20,000 Athenians now depend on city social services for daily needs

Through its social services agency Kyada, Athens municipality provides extensive support through a network of soup kitchens, a social grocery where citizens in need can obtain footstuffs and household goods, family support and programmes to support the homeless

Food kitchens are also run by voluntary groups (Photo: Reuters)

Food kitchens are also run by voluntary groups (Photo: Reuters)

More than 20,000 Athenians are dependent on municipal social services for their daily survival, amid an increase of poverty and homelessness in the capital.

The figure is contained in a report – the first of its kind – on the work of the city's social services network, presented by Mayor Yiorgos Kaminis on Wednesday, ahead of the international day for the eradication of poverty on Thursday.

The report revealed that among those using its services are a growing number of low-income pensioners, the unemployed, university graduates and minors, as well as entire families, for their basic nutritional needs.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Kaminis said: "Despite the unprecedented crisis affecting our country, we have managed to keep the city centre on its two feet, where serious problems have concentrated and even at a time when the social structures of the state have collapsed."

Through its social services agency Kyada, the municipality provides extensive support through a network of soup kitchens, a social grocery where citizens in need can obtain footstuffs and household goods, family support and programmes to support the homeless. 

Its mutual assistance programme provides food, clothing and hygiene support to 13,500 people (including 3,000 children) a year. The programme is supported by more than 100 companies and organisations in Greece and abroad, who have donated more than 200 tonnes of food, clothing, toys and household items. The goods are distributed by appointment only, to avoiding beneficiaries the indignity of having to queue. Kyada estimates that the value of goods distributed through this programme at €1m. Offers of donations to the programme can be made via the dedicated 15422 number.

On the 1,400 using the municipality's soup kitchen, 60% are Greek, 70% are male and 60% are between 36 and 60 years of age. Three in four have no income whatsoever while another 11% have income of less than €320 a month
The municipality's soup kitchen on Sofokleous street distributes 1,400 servings of food, at two times (noon and 4.30pm) a day. Kyada reports that 60% of recipients are Greek. Of the total, most of male (70%) and aged between 36 and 60 years of age (60%). Three in four have no income whatsoever, and are homeless, destitute and unemployed, while another 11% have income of less than €320 a month. 

The report notes that not only are those turning up at the soup kitchens for the first time younger -  7.6% of first-time users are under 18, 10.9% are aged between 18-25 and a quarter are aged 26-35 years – they are also better educated, with 22% having completed high school and 18% possessing a third-level qualification.

The municipality's social grocery, established in 2007, is a joint initiative between a homeless foundation and the Marinopoulos supermarket chain, which provides all the required supplies and manpower. After proving that they earn less than a certain minimum, applicants can take what they need from the grocery for free. 

In the first six months of this year, the social grocery provided for 774 households, or 2,026 people, three-thirds of whom are Greek, followed by Albanians (11.2%) and Romanians (5.8%) and others. In the second half of the year, a further 1,013 families joined the programme.

Three in four recipients are unemployed, others pensioners, while 7% are have jobs but are unable to make ends meet.

Another programme, "Solidarity in the Family", is supported by Cosmote and food, physical and psychosocial support to 200 families.

Interviews with 460 homeless people suggests that 60% of them are dependent on alcohol or drugs. Just over three in four of the homeless are men and 53% are Greek. A quarter of the homeless are aged under 35, another quarter are under 45
The municipality's work with the homeless includes a shelter and street support programmes. According to Kaminis, the city now has about 1,000 homeless – a figure that others estimate to be 20 times that.

Interviews with 460 homeless people suggests that 60% of them are dependent on alcohol or drugs, meaning that homelessness is primarily a problem of addiction.

Just over three in four of the homeless are men and 53% are Greek. Of the non-Greeks, 53% are European, mainly from eastern Europe, and 46% are Asian and African.

The report found that a quarter of the homeless are aged under 35, another quarter are under 45.

Most said that financial problems pushed them into homelessness, while others said they had no families to support them. When asked, over half of respondents said they didn't want accommodation.

The programme has succeeded in getting 20 homeless off the streets and into temporary hostel accommodation.

EnetEnglish, ANA-MPA

As poverty increases, more citizens turn to municipal social services for survival | Society | Home

Friday, October 18, 2013

Greek-Australian citizens look to Australia to escape economic crisis

By David Mark Posted Fri 11 Oct 2013

Greek couple Demetre Katsikopoulos and Loukia Kontou.

Photo: Greek couple Demetre Katsikopoulos and Loukia Kontou. (David Mark)

Related Story: Greek crisis sees new wave of migrants

Map: Australia

Greeks are again heading for Australia in order to escape the economic crisis that has devastated their economy.

Over previous decades, many hundreds of thousands of Greeks came to Australia and established families and communities.

Most stayed, but some returned to rediscover their homeland.

Now, Australian citizens – the children of those earlier Greek immigrants who returned - are heading to Australia's shores.

Greek welfare organisations in Sydney and Melbourne say they are getting many inquiries every week from these new Greek immigrants.

Unlike those who came with the earlier waves of immigrants in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, the family support and communities that once existed are no longer here.

In many cases their children, and sometimes their parents, do not speak English.

Greek immigrants escape financial ruin

Demetre Katsikopoulos came to Australia with his parents in 1970, when he was aged seven.

"They wanted to come because a lot of people coming to Australia they were making money so we came here, " he said.

"We are alright. I was going to school here, I love it here, and one day after seven-and-a-half years my parents decided that we should go back.

"We went to Greece and because I didn't know the Greek language, my father put me in American community schools, but that was expensive, so a year later they put me in a job."

Mr Katsikopoulos left school and was trained as an upholsterer. He worked in the trade for three decades, eventually opening his own shop.

But the Greek economic crisis changed everything.

Mr Katsikopoulos's wife, Loukia Kontou, says no one in Greece has money.

"People can't pay taxis, can't pay the rents, can't pay nothing," she said.

Mr Katsikopoulos added:

"That's the worst thing that can happen to people. You know because the smile is off the face. Everyone is thinking about what they have to pay.

"I had my mother in 2011 in the hospital. I was bringing the medication from home. They didn't have any medication in the hospital so I have to bring it from home, and it's all very bad."

Leaving life in Greece a difficult decision

The crisis prompted Mr Katsikopoulos and his wife to think about leaving Greece.

It was more than 30 years since he had left Australia, but as Loukia Katsikopoulos explains, the idea of returning continued to burn in her husband.

He was still an Australian citizen and his memories of the six years he spent in Australia were strong," she said.

"I feel that Demetre wants to come back. He has the dreams and he can't do anything in Greece with the crisis. We have problems with everything in Greece," she said.

Mr Katsikopoulos says: "It was my dream, back of my head. It was a solution. That's the only reason I came back. You can't came back if you're not an Australia citizen."

But leaving behind a life, family and friends wasn't easy.

"You know when you live somewhere over 30 and 35 years, it's too difficult to leave," he said.

"You have everything, you have your house, you have your car, you have your friends, you have your family."

When the couple left Athens airport, many of their friends and relatives came to say goodbye.

They had to come on motorbikes because they couldn't afford the petrol for cars.

Loukia Katsikopoulos says she cries a lot.

"It is difficult for me, because I have all my friends. I stay the place, which I born. But I have to try," she said.

New wave of immigrants without support network

Maria Petrehelos, a psychologist at the Greek Welfare Centre in Sydney, says this wave of Greek immigrants differ from their predecessors because they don't have the same support networks as their parents and grandparents had when they arrived half a century ago.

"It's not easy. It was difficult with the chain migration in the '50s and '60s because you had a relative, someone you were coming to," she said.

"It's a bit different now because people are coming just as their individual nuclear unit. 

I didn't come to Australia to be rich, I just came to live with dignity.
Demetre Katsikopoulos

"Parents, siblings, they're all part of the family. It is not the nuclear family that has the most importance for Greek families so leaving that and coming just as your nuclear unit is very isolating."

Demetre Katsikopoulos found a place to live and a job as an upholsterer within 20 days of arriving in Australia.

He has brought his parents out, too, but after more than three decades away from Australia it's like starting again.

"It's strange. I'm still trying to get used to Australia because they're two different countries," he said.

"I'm curious [to see] how it is going to be my future here. I didn't come to Australia to be rich, I just came to live with dignity."

Greek-Australian citizens look to Australia to escape economic crisis - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Parties seek joint line on bill to cut Golden Dawn’s funding


The government and leftist SYRIZA were today to continue talks aimed at reaching a common proposal for a bill that would suspend state funding for parties, such as ultra-right Golden Dawn, whose leaders or deputies are charged with criminal activities, as investigations by judicial, police and financial authorities into the group’s activities gathered pace.

Meanwhile a prosecutor turned down a request by Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, his second-in-command Christos Pappas and another MP, Yiannis Lagos, to be released from pre-trial custody so they can attend a vote in Parliament scheduled for Wednesday on whether to lift the immunity of another six Golden Dawn lawmakers.

According to sources, the government and SYRIZA appeared to be edging toward a compromise on the provisions of the bill concerning state funding, though the leftists reportedly insisted that any suspension should only apply when the charges relate to membership of a criminal organization and should be approved by an enhanced majority of 180 in the 300-seat Parliament. Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis also discussed the funding issue with officials from smaller opposition parties.

In a related development, officials of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) launched an investigation into the finances of the ultra-right party in a bid to trace any suspicious donors or indications of money laundering.

Investigations by the judiciary and the police into Golden Dawn also intensified.

Giorgos Roupakias, the 45-year-old Golden Dawn supporter who has been charged with the murder of leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas last month, was returned to custody after testifying before a magistrate on additional charges of belonging to a criminal organization. In his testimony, which reportedly contradicted earlier depositions, Roupakias said he stabbed the 34-year-old Fyssas, after being set upon by the latter and a group of friends. He admitted to speaking by telephone with several Golden Dawn members before and after the killing but described his relationship with the party as “loose.” He rebuffed reports that relatives of his worked for the party. Roupakias further contradicted claims by another suspect – a 32-year-old man – who said he was in Roupakias’s car shortly before the fatal stabbing.

A police investigation also intensified on Tuesday with officers confiscating dozens of weapons from the home in the Athens suburb of Voula of Anastasios Pallis, a former associate of shipowner Victor Restis, following a tipoff in connection to their search for a suspected Golden Dawn weapons arsenal. Police seized 20 firearms, all with licenses, and 60 knives as well as two Tasers. Earlier this month, a British man, Edward Pringle-Stacey, wrote to Greece’s Supreme Court with information that he deemed useful for authorities in their search for weapons that Golden Dawn could be hiding. | Parties seek joint line on bill to cut Golden Dawn’s funding

Ex-minister's jailing a boost for faltering sense of justice


Former Defence Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos was jailed for 20 years on Monday after being found guilty of money laundering. Although the ex-PASOK veteran will serve only a fraction of this sentence, his conviction is notable moment in Greek politics as it is the first time a frontline political figure has been found guilty of corruption since the early 1990s.

Tsochatzopoulos was deemed guilty of accepting bribes totalling about 55 million euros during his spell as defence minister between 1996 and 2001. Another 16 people were convicted of helping him disperse the money through a complex network of offshore companies and property deals.

The 74-year-old was one of PASOK’s co-founders and came within a whisker of becoming Greece’s prime minister in 1996 so the fact he is going to be spending at least the next couple of years behind bars goes some way to reversing the sense which many Greeks have that their politicians can act with impunity.

It is worth remembering that money laundering charges were brought against Tsochatzopoulos because they were not subject to the statute of limitations that prevented a bribery case being mounted against him. The judiciary used the full range of its powers to pin the ex-minister down and jail him. Again, this is somewhat of a landmark moment given the way Greek politicians have evaded the consequences of their actions in the past.

Tsochatzopoulos’s conviction also comes in the wake of two other high profile local politicians, ex-Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos and former Central Macedonia Governor Panagiotis Psomiadis, also being convicted of corruption. Papageorgopoulos is currently serving a life sentence for embezzling 18 million euros from the Municipality of Thessaloniki.

There are a number of other cases pending. Three ex-ministers are being investigated over their tax declarations and ex-Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou could be indicted for allegedly doctoring the so-called Lagarde list of depositors, which included the names of more than 2,000 Greeks with savings in the Geneva branch of HSBC. Papaconstantinou denies removing the names of four of his relatives from the list before asking for it to be investigated for possible tax evaders.

Voters have persistently complained since 2010 that they are lifting the burden of the crisis while some politicians and other members of Greece’s elite remain untouched. The fact that business owners and taxpayers are being arrested for being unable to pay their obligations to the state but that decision makers are not held accountable for stealing or wasting public funds is often cited as a cause for Greeks’ indignation.

Tsochatzopoulos’s conviction will not rectify this overnight but if his prosecution proves to be just one strand of a multi-pronged attack on corruption in public life then it would help restore some faith in the country’s institutions and instil hope that they will ensure the law is applied fairly.

Former Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes took over a newly created post in the summer as Greece’s anti-corruption supremo. He will coordinate efforts to tackle graft and draw up a national anti-corruption strategy. It remains to be seen if he can have any impact on ensuring justice is administered.

However, as long as cases like the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal and the Lagarde list are not properly investigated and those responsible are not brought to account, it will be very difficult to convince Greeks that this government is serious about correcting many of the wrongs committed by its predecessors.

Ex-minister's jailing a boost for faltering sense of justice | Macropolis

Volunteers try to fill void left by retreating Greek state

12/10/2013 By: Nick Malkoutzis

Photo by Myrto Papadopoulos [] Photo by Myrto Papadopoulos []

One of the most worrying aspects of the crisis has been that the financial constraints on the state and its ever-decreasing role in a number of areas, such as social welfare, healthcare and urban services. This has left thousands of Greeks directly exposed to some of the worst effects of the recession.

According to Eurostat, 31 percent of Greeks are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to 27.6 percent in 2009, before the crisis began. Also about 65 percent percent of Greece’s 1.3 million unemployed have been out of a job for more than 12 months and therefore without proper social insurance. In 2009, just 45.6 percent of Greece’s jobless were long-term unemployed. At the time, Greece only had around 500,000 people out of work. The impact of the recession is as clear as the need for a safety net to protect the growing number of people being pushed to society’s fringes. In the state’s absence, this crucial role is increasingly played by volunteer groups.

Boroume (We Can) is one of the organizations that has attracted most attention over the last couple of years as it uses food donations and salvages ingredients that others discard in order to provide meals for Greeks who cannot afford to feed themselves. Similarly, the Greek branch of Doctors of the World relies on the volunteer work of doctors and medical experts to provide free healthcare to Greeks who do not have enough social security credits to visit public hospitals.

Also, a group of about 100 Athenians came together in May this year to form the Symahoi Ygeias (Allies of Health). While some of the group are doctors, it also includes people from many other walks of life. Their initial aim is to provide assistance to units that are providing vital social work, such as municipal medical centers, the “help at home” scheme for the elderly and disabled and neighbourhood “friendship clubs”. The group has already signed agreements with several municipalities in Athens and hopes at some point to be able to set up its own centers to provide medical assistance.

A similar role is carried out by the Metropolitan Community Clinic in the southern Athens suburb of Elliniko. Created in 2012, the clinic is run by volunteer doctors and other staff who provide medical assistance to more than 4,000 people a year who cannot afford care elsewhere. The medicines and equipment used at the clinic have been donated.

This type of volunteerism is a relatively new concept in Greece, which has a poor record of this kind of social engagement, partly because of the relative economic stability over the last few decades but also because of the dominant role of the family in personal life and the political party in public life. Even last year, Greece came 145th out of 146 countries in the World Giving Index, which also suggested that only 5 percent of Greeks donated money and only 3 percent volunteered their time.

However, recent research suggests that the crisis is prompting a change in the way Greeks approach the idea of helping others. An opinion poll carried out by QED for the Human Grid, a scheme set up by the TEDx Athens discussion forum to map and act as a bridge between the various volunteer groups in the Greek capital, suggests that a growing number of Greeks are giving up their time for common causes. The survey, published in May this year, indicated that there has been a 44 percent increase in the number of Greeks taking part in volunteer projects and solidarity activities since 2010, when Greece signed up to the EU-IMF bailout.

A third of those questioned said that they will likely join a volunteer group soon, while 84 percent said that they viewed the idea of volunteerism positively. Half of the respondents also had a positive view of non-governmental organizations and 46 percent were in favour of collective activism. The latter is significant as NGOs have often been viewed negatively in Greece due to cases of corruption, while some forms of activism, such as urban intervention, have been regarded with suspicion because of the absence of political influences and connections.

“So far our country has scored very low in terms of having an active civil society but there is constant improvement,” said Stathis Haikalis, who acted as a coordinator for the survey. “There is a subtle but continuous trend of people dealing with the nightmare in the Greek social and economic spheres, which is the lack of trust in every aspect of domestic life.”

There is a very practical element to the apparent trend for more Greeks to become involved in volunteer groups, since the effects of the crisis demand that people come to the help of their fellow citizens. But there is also a more existential aspect to this development as it indicates a growing willingness for people to trust each other and wean themselves off a dependence on political parties to act as their social networks and providers.

There is, however, plenty to be cautious about. The QED survey found that 38 percent of those questioned said they expect that they or their family members will soon be in need of volunteer help. As long as an economic recovery remains elusive, there will continue to be tremendous pressure on Greek society and even an increase in volunteerism is no substitute for a state that can provide the social services that are so desperately necessary in Greece’s situation.

Volunteers try to fill void left by retreating Greek state | Macropolis

Samaras ratchets up tension in clash with SYRIZA over violence


Photo by Myrto Papadopoulos [] Photo by Myrto Papadopoulos []

Tension has seeped through Greek politics in the wake of the Golden Dawn arrests but Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appears to have decided to play on this polarisation. On Friday, he launched a new attack on unidentified opposition parties, which he accused of not providing a blanket condemnation of violence.

There is no “good or bad violence,” Samaras told New Democracy’s political committee. Although he did not name SYRIZA specifically, it was clear that Samaras was trying to single out the leftist party. In recent weeks, his aides have followed a similar, if more outspoken, line with references to the “two extremes”.

It has been a concerted New Democracy tactic for some time to portray SYRIZA as a party containing radical elements that favour violent protest and which leader Alexis Tsipras is not able to control. SYRIZA has found it difficult to shake off the accusations and is often drawn into slanging matches with the conservatives.

On Friday, Samaras drew parallels between the violence committed by Golden Dawn and the firebombing of Marfin Bank in Athens in 2010, which left three people dead, and an arson attack this February on the premises of Hellenic Gold in Skouries, Halkidiki. He accused opponents of justifying the use of violence when it was part of “popular struggles”. The implication is that SYRIZA, if not directly connected, was tolerant of these kinds of expressions of violence.

While SYRIZA has been active in street protests and backed demonstrations against the Skouries gold mine, no evidence that it was involved in or encouraged violence has been produced so far. Twenty people have been questioned in connection to the attack on Hellenic Gold and reports on Friday suggested that another 54 are due to be charged in connection with a number of protests in Skouries.

This week, SYRIZA’s newspaper, Avgi, ran an unsigned article that claimed the party’s opponents were preparing to frame the leftists in a bid to damage them politically. This came just a few days after SYRIZA MPs started asking questions in public about whether they were being monitored by the National Intelligence Service (EYP). It was earlier revealed that the agency had been eavesdropping on Golden Dawn MPs. The leftists have also opposed draft legislation that would block state funding to any parliamentary party whose leadership is accused of criminal activity. SYRIZA has asked for the bill to be amended so that funding only ceases if the party leader or MPs are convicted of a crime. The leftists seem to fear the originally proposed legislation could be intentionally used to harm them.

Given this climate and the fact he pleaded for calm in the wake of a Golden Dawn member murdering rapper Pavlos Fyssas last month, Samaras’s decision to turn up the heat under this political pot boiler can only be seen as a calculated move to strengthen his appeal with right wing voters and damage SYRIZA’s chances of appeal to moderate voters. It is not a tactic that has universal approval within New Democracy. MPs that remain loyal to former prime minister and party leader Costas Karamanlis have expressed their concern. Karamanlis sought to appeal to the centre ground when he led the party.

SYRIZA’s response to Samaras’s latest attack was to label him the “high priest of political division.” A new round in the two parties’ war of words is inevitable. Whether it is a result of genuine differences or calculated politicking, the fraught atmosphere in Greek politics shows no signs of abating.

Samaras ratchets up tension in clash with SYRIZA over violence | Macropolis

TAUBE: Shunning Greece's Neo-Nazi 'Golden Dawn'

By Michael Taube Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Illustration by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

Illustration by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

During last year’s Greek elections, some fringe political parties were able to gain seats in the Hellenic Parliament. These included the Independent Greeks (right-leaning Euroskeptics), Democratic Left (socialists), SYRIZA (a coalition of radical leftists) and Golden Dawn.

It was that last political party that caught most observers’ eyes. Golden Dawn has been called everything under the sun over the years, including “right-wing extremist,” “neo-Nazi,” “fascist,” “neo-fascist” and “authoritarian.” In reality, this party is nothing more than a bunch of thugs who have regularly engaged in violent activity and riots in Greece.

This is exactly the problem Golden Dawn is facing right now. Various party members and its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, were recently arrested in connection with the high-profile killing of left-wing political activist and hip-hop artist Pavlos (“Killah P”) Fyssas.

These individuals remain innocent until proven guilty, of course. If the Greek courts prove a connection exists in this crime, it will likely lead to Golden Dawn’s imminent collapse on the political scene. For mainstream political conservatives in Greece and beyond, nary a tear will be shed.

Golden Dawn is a political blight that the vast majority of rational individuals on the right have to deal with occasionally.

Senior party members have acknowledged great respect for former Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas in the past, for example. Mr. Metaxas modeled his authoritarian 4th of August Regime (1936-1941) after Italy’s fascist regime under Benito Mussolini. Even worse, Mr. Michaloliakos expressed admiration for Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler in a 1987 issue of the party’s magazine. Here’s a small portion of the translated version: “We are the faithful soldiers of the National Socialist idea and nothing else … we raise our right hand up, we salute the Sun, and with the courage that is compelled by our military honor and our National Socialist duty we shout full of passion, faith to the future and our visions: ‘Heil Hitler!’”

That being said, Golden Dawn never came close to crossing the 1 percent barrier in popular support in either the Greek or European elections. Yet when Greece faced its terrible debt crisis last year, this gave them a golden opportunity to make significant political gains.

In the May 2012 election, they became the sixth-largest political party in Greece by winning nearly 7 percent of the popular vote and 21 seats. Although this number dropped in the June 2012 election — after talks to create a new coalition government collapsed — to 6.9 percent and 18 seats, Golden Dawn actually became the fifth-largest party.

It’s not surprising to see a fringe outfit achieve some measure of electoral success owing to a country’s political and economic crisis. Notable recent examples include France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, Austria’s Jorg Haider and Russia’s Vladimir Zhirinovsky. In the end, these parties frequently collapse owing to internal strife, changes in the political atmosphere, or voters simply waking up to political and economic realities.

Regardless, the liberal media went bonkers over the news that Golden Dawn was sitting in the Hellenic Parliament. Why? For the same reason they erupted over Messrs. Le Pen, Haider and Zhirinovsky: The sudden rise of the “extreme right.”

Ah, yes. The so-called extreme right, even though its supposed adherents barely have any right-of-center views or values. Isn’t it strange that we don’t hear much about the “extreme left” in politics?

The left-right political axis has never been a perfect science when it comes to extremist parties and movements. Marxist and communist parties sit on the far left — the same side as modern liberals, socialists and Greens — while ultranationalist and neo-fascist parties such as Golden Dawn sit on the far right — the same side as economic libertarians, classical liberals and conservatives.

Aside from occasional jokes and snide remarks, most people are fundamentally aware that communists are different from liberals, and fascists are different from conservatives. Yet when the political terms “left” and “right” are used interchangeably, it opens the door to some confusion. Case in point: Golden Dawn.

Hence, Greece’s mainstream conservative parties must take this opportunity to permanently remove the stain of Mr. Michaloliakos and Golden Dawn. This can be done by supporting right-leaning ideas and policies (smaller government, lower taxes, more individual rights and freedoms) that will help the country achieve some measure of economic stability and success.

In turn, Greek conservatives will prove Golden Dawn was another flash in the pan that frightened everyone for a spell but only ended up embarrassing their nation more than anything else.

Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a contributor to The Washington Times.

TAUBE: Shunning Greece's Neo-Nazi 'Golden Dawn' - Washington Times

Greece’s Golden Dawn leaders accused of organised violence

Sun, Oct 13, 2013

Lawmakers charged with belonging to criminal grouping involved in many offences

Extreme-right Golden Dawn party senior lawmaker Christos Pappas is escorted by anti-terrorism police officers to a courthouse in Athens Oearlier this month. Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters

Extreme-right Golden Dawn party senior lawmaker Christos Pappas is escorted by anti-terrorism police officers to a courthouse in Athens Oearlier this month. Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters

She first got into politics in Greece last year - when she claims she bought herself a bullet-proof vest and learned how to beat up immigrants with poles hung with the national flag.

Her training over, she was a full member of Golden Dawn, the far-right party whose rage against foreigners has propelled its stiff-arm saluting leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos and 17 others into parliament in Athens in the wake of the Greek debt crisis.

A year on and the woman is Witness B, giving evidence used to arrest Mr Mihaloliakos and five fellow Golden Dawn lawmakers. They have been charged with belonging to a criminal organisation involved in many offences including the stabbing last month of a left-wing rap artist whose death has infuriated the government.

“Abusing immigrants was fun,” Witness B told prosecutors last month of her days riding with a party motorcycle gang, according to a partial transcript of testimony included in prosecutors’ indictment submission and seen by Reuters.

Defence lawyers challenge the testimony and the charges.

The party denies wrongdoing. Accusing the government of tactics not seen since the military junta of 40 years ago, it says it is being persecuted for its politics after standing up for ordinary Greeks against a corrupt elite that has bankrupted the nation and flung open its borders to cheap migrant labour.

Statements filed in court by purportedly penitent members of Golden Dawn paint the most detailed picture yet of the inner workings of a group that spent three decades on the far fringes of politics before becoming the fifth biggest party last year.

That picture is one of violence and intimidation not only against migrants, the testimony suggests, but also within the party - against dissenters or some who sought to leave. As such, the witnesses may be key to proving that Golden Dawn is a criminal organisation, people familiar with the case said.

No date or venue has been set for a trial of the six lawmakers, three of whom have been released on bail. They face 10 years in jail if convicted of criminal association.

A party supporter accused of killing the rapper during a street brawl is being tried for manslaughter with intent in a separate case; he says he was acting in self-defence.

“All this is nonsense,” said Pericles Stavrianakis, lawyer for Golden Dawn parliamentary spokesman Christos Pappas, who is among the six senior party officials charged. Stavrianakis said the witness testimony was “fake and made up”.

Reuters has not verified the witnesses’ identities. But prosecutors see their testimony as indicating that the party systematically planned or committed crimes over a period - a key test for convicting members of being part of a criminal organisation under a law targeting gang crime and terrorism.

Some witnesses also tell of members admiring Hitler, though the party denies it is neo-Nazi. Its swastika-style flag and its slogan “Blood, Honour, Golden Dawn” are reminiscent of Nazi symbols and ideas, but these are not illegal in Greece.

Significant force

Voters seem to be turning away from Golden Dawn, though it remains a significant force. Opinion polls suggest its support has shrunk by a third in the past year, but still give it close to the 7 per cent it won in the June 2012 parliamentary ballot.

Like other protest movements across Europe, Golden Dawn - as well as the radical left party that came second in the Greek election - has seen support surge since the euro zone debt crisis destroyed jobs and incomes in much of the continent.

The speed with which prosecutors brought charges after the killing, and government moves that could hurt Golden Dawn’s finances, have prompted some Greeks to suspect political motives in the case against an anti-establishment challenger. It has used its 18 votes in the 300-seat legislature to call for Greece to cancel massive foreign debts, attack the European Union and expel illegal immigrants - all policies with widespread appeal.

Centre-right prime minister Antonis Samaras, who rules in coalition with the main centre-left party, has spoken out fiercely against Golden Dawn since the stabbing. And a new government bill would cut off public funds to parties if leaders are charged with felonies. But independent legal experts see little to suggest prosecutors have exceeded their authority.

“These were really unprecedented events, tackled in an unprecedented way, which many people found bizarre,” said Yannis Drossos, professor of constitutional law at Athens Law School.

“But bizarre is one thing and illegal is quite another. It was done quickly and decisively, but not in an illegal way.”

Mr Mihaloliakos, a 55-year-old former commando, founded the movement in the 1980s. The legal moves against him and his colleagues began after a street brawl in a working-class neighbourhood of Athens on Tuesday, September 17th, that left rap artist Pavlos Fissas dead.

Witness testimony indicates Fissas (34), whose songs often took aim at racism, left a cafe with a few friends after watching soccer on television. They were chased by about 15 men. Fissas was caught, beaten and stabbed twice.

Yiorgos Roupakias, a truck driver held in custody on a charge of manslaughter with intent, has pleaded that he acted in self-defence, his lawyer, Christina Tsabazi, said.

Court and police documents seen by Reuters show Roupakias told police in an initial statement that he was a Golden Dawn member but later said he had only a “loose” connection to the party. Phone records indicate he called a local party leader seven times that evening, including once before the incident.

There is no suggestion Mihaloliakos or other lawmakers were present that night in the capital’s Keratsini district.

But the outcry that followed the killing led to an order from Greece’s top court to investigate whether party members were involved in planning the violence and more than 30 other crimes. In that investigation, parallel to the direct probe into Fissas’s death, Mr Mihaloliakos and two others remain in custody.

Pavlos Sarakis, lawyer for parliamentarians Ilias Kasidiaris and Ilias Panagiotaros, said neither had any link to the stabbing and denied they were part of a criminal organisation:

“All these accounts are monstrosities, a figment of imagination, from witnesses who are serving a specific purpose, which is to criminalise Golden Dawn’s members of parliament and defame them in the public eye,” Sarakis told Reuters.

Mr Mihaloliakos denied the charges against him in a statement to prosecutors that was included in court documents seen by Reuters. His lawyer declined to comment on the testimonies.

He said Golden Dawn was not a neo-Nazi movement. Greeks still recall Nazi occupation in the second World War and Germany is a target of popular anger again over EU demands for austerity.

More than 400,000 people voted for Golden Dawn last year - over 20 times as many as in 2009. The criminal case being put together by investigating magistrates in Athens, however, focuses on the core of organisers and youth members who appear to number a few thousand nationwide and have been a small but vocal presence on the streets over the past decade or so.

Often clad in black and marching with flags, Golden Dawn activists broadened their appeal with eye-catching initiatives, from wrecking the stalls of immigrant street vendors to handing out free food - for Greek citizens only. Responding to concern that police were complacent, or even colluded with Golden Dawn, the government has now ordered another inquiry into the force.

Former party members who have come forward to testify to prosecutors in the criminal case against the lawmakers say they regret joining in violent initiation rites, indoctrination and military-style training with knives and sticks. At least one admitted to being party to violence against fellow members and others, according to transcripts of the testimonies.

It was unclear what, if anything, witnesses stand to gain from giving evidence. All have been given police protection.

One, Witness E, told prosecutors: “Some people exploited the need to belong, which many of us felt.”

In another court document, Witness A said party members threatened him and his family when he tried to quit: “It is easy to join,” he said. “But nearly impossible to leave.”

Witness B described a strict hierarchy. New recruits were not permitted to address senior members, on pain of beating. She herself was once made to do 30 push-ups and kicked in the ribs after protesting about jokes she said she found racist.

Witness C, who said he joined as a teenager six years ago, said he was punched and hit with sticks during his initiation into an upper echelon. He said he was trained to use heavy wooden batons, doubling up as flagpoles, as a weapon.

To be an elite street-fighter earned the title “Cerberus” - the “hell-hound” of Greek myth that guarded the Underworld.

Recalling “the faces of the people we tortured”, Witness C told prosecutors: “I still wake up at night and feel guilty.”

Witness E spoke of recruits being urged to read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, make Nazi-style salutes and support the overthrow of Greek democracy: “You have to prove blind devotion to the movement, to the leader, to the ideas of national socialism.”

Sarakis, the defence lawyer, said his clients deny that the party held any military-style training or carried out beatings:

“A criminal organisation operates in the dark, has secret members and engages in illegal activities,” he said. “This does not correspond to a political party that has taken part in elections and whose activities are in the open.”


Greece’s Golden Dawn leaders accused of organised violence - European News | Latest News from Across Europe | The Irish Times - Sun, Oct 13, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Golden Dawn's finances investigated

9 Oct 2013

Judges seek access to MPs’ bank accounts, ask Parliament to lift immunity of three more lawmakers.

Magistrates handling an investigation into whether Golden Dawn has been operating as a criminal organization Tuesday sought the help of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) and an independent anti-money laundering committee to access the bank accounts of MPs and officials of the ultra-right party.

Judges are reportedly keen to scour the financial transactions of 32 people – including the six MPs arrested last week on charges of belonging to a criminal organization – in a bid to shed light on the party’s activities. It remained unclear when the order would be given to grant access to the accounts.

Judicial authorities also sought the assistance of Parliament in extending their probe, asking the House to lift the immunity of three Golden Dawn MPs – Giorgos Germenis, Panagiotis Iliopoulos and Stathis Boukouras. Although the three MPs face the same charges as their six peers arrested last week, judges sought Parliament’s permission to lift their immunity as they are deemed to pose a less flagrant threat in view of last week’s decision to remand the party’s leadership.

Judicial officials have broadened their probe to include the three MPs after former GD members testifying as witnesses claimed the lawmakers played a key role in organizing assaults on immigrants and training new recruits to the party. Boukouras was said to be storing and trading in weapons and to have had “absolute control” over the party’s activities in Corinth, including attacks on immigrants and protection rackets. Kathimerini understands that Boukouras and Golden Dawn members in Corinth are accused of being involved in a range of crimes, including assaults on leftists and the blackmail of local politicians and businessmen.

According to sources, at least 10 more former GD members and supporters have asked to testify as protected witnesses.

Parliament’s ethics committee is on Wednesday to examine the judiciary’s request for the immunity of the three MPs to be lifted. It will also examine requests to lift the immunity of MPs Ilias Panagiotaros and Ilias Kasidiaris, two of three GD MPs released pending trial last week, for separate cases of disturbing the peace, and of Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos for operating an illegal radio station in Larissa, central Greece.

The MPs are to be summoned by the committee within two days while the House’s plenary session is to convene next week to debate the issue and decide when to vote.

A police crackdown on GD continued Tuesday with the arrest of Yiannis Kazatzoglou, 34, who was allegedly a passenger in the vehicle driven by Giorgos Roupakias on the night of the murder of leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas last month. Roupakias, who has been charged with Fyssas’s murder though claims to have stabbed the rapper in self-defense, is to defend himself before an investigating magistrate.

Source: Kathimerini

Golden Dawn's finances investigated | Neos Kosmos

The left in Greece must rise up against Golden Dawn

 Costas Lapavitsas

Costas Lapavitsas, Wednesday 9 October 2013

The only way to stop the fascists profiting from the breakdown of the Greek state is to offer a socialist alternative to capitalism

The Rise Of The Far Right Political Movement Golden Dawn

Golden Dawn party members. 'It is wishful thinking to expect fascism to be defeated through police action, or by simply praising democracy.' Photograph: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Greece – and the rise of Golden Dawn – is an extreme parable of what has happened to many developed countries since the global crisis broke out in 2007. The policies of the Greek "rescue" – where the Greek people had no inkling what was afoot until the agreement was signed in 2010, leading to a tremendous spasm of anger – are instantly recognisable, if exceptionally severe. Wages, salaries and pensions have been cut; austerity has been imposed on the public sector; privatisation and liberalisation have been promoted. It did not take long for any hope of a change in approach following the collapse of Lehman Brothers to fade and for the forces of neoliberal economics, powerfully entrenched in ministries, international organisations, thinktanks and universities, to reassert themselves. By the middle of 2009 the familiar mix of favouring private capital, squeezing labour, attacking the welfare state and proclaiming the virtues of the market had prevailed.

The renewed neoliberal ascendancy has bred a sense of popular impotence in developed countries, rendered particularly dangerous by two features of the crisis. First, the root causes of the turmoil manifestly lie with private capital, particularly its financial component. In popular perception across the world, bankers are the main culprit, and rightly so. Second, and even more important, the crisis has not simply hit wage labour, which is the normal way of capitalism. Middle-class living conditions have also been ravaged as salaries and pensions fell, real estate took a hit, health systems suffered and education was disrupted.

This is the background to the rise of the extreme right in Europe, including fascism in Greece. As the economy collapsed and unemployment soared, the living conditions of working and middle class Greeks became unbearable. There are entire streets in Athens where no one holds a regular job, and many families rely on food handouts. Health and education are falling apart, while the state machinery is being dismantled. Helplessness has spread, together with a profound sense of national humiliation and loss of sovereignty in a country treated like a beggar by its EMU "partners". There is despair at the corruption of politicians and the effrontery of the unchanged networks of power. There is also a widespread conviction that democracy is a sham, protecting those who are to blame and masking the rising authoritarianism of the state.

Golden Dawn thrived in these conditions. It spoke against the "rescue" and denounced foreign bankers; it blamed illegal immigrants for the breakdown of law and order and the disruption of normal life; it ridiculed democracy promising to cleanse corruption; it sought to restore national pride by using the symbols of nationalism; it penetrated the security forces, themselves under great pressure from spending cuts.

This is much more than a criminal organisation that terrorises the streets. It is a fascist party that has acquired genuine support by worshipping violence, glorying in primitive racism and reasserting national greatness. These views, of course, offer no way out to a devastated society, and certainly none in the interests of working people. But when the normal conditions of life have been destroyed, when everything looks uncertain and threatening, even the barbarous message of Golden Dawn can find resonance. The extreme right across Europe is perfectly aware of that.

It is wishful thinking to expect fascism to be defeated through police action, or by simply praising democracy. The extreme right will retreat only when the living conditions of the majority are no longer disrupted to serve the interests of private capital; when democracy is not constantly transgressed by an authoritarian state; when the threat to national sovereignty is lifted and national dignity is respected. In short, when the neoliberal ascendancy in Europe and elsewhere is decisively broken. For fascism has fed on the disasters of neoliberalism.

These conditions will not emerge without a mass popular movement in which the left is actively involved. Yet one of the most depressing features of the crisis has been the weakness of the left – organisationally, electorally and, above all, in the realm of ideas. The left has shown no self-belief, no burning desire to change the world. Even in Greece, where leftwing traditions remain very strong, the rise of Syriza has been more by default than through its own merits. As for the rest, including the Communist party, they have distinguished themselves by endless revolutionary verbiage that barely hides their fear of responsibility and power. People are not fooled by mere words.

To confront the extreme right the left needs to demonstrate in practice that the ascendancy of neoliberalism is not inevitable. For that, however, it must offer a realistic anti-capitalist programme that takes steps in the direction of socialism. Such a programme ought to reconsider immigration and its place in contemporary capitalism. It should also avoid treating supranational bodies, such as the EU and the EMU, as inherently progressive, while rethinking the connection between the nation state and democracy. We now know that sovereign power can be a bulwark against anti-democratic transnational pressures. Above all, the left needs to believe in itself, its ideas and its vision to overthrow capitalism. Perhaps the Greek left can beat such a path for the rest of Europe. Time is getting short.

The left in Greece must rise up against Golden Dawn | Costas Lapavitsas | Comment is free |

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 | Former defense minister gets 20 years in jail


In a historic verdict, an Athens court on Monday passed down a 20-year jail sentence to former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos after finding him guilty of laundering millions of euros in kickbacks from defense deals. It also handed heavy terms to another 16 of his co-defendants.

After a five-month trial, the Athens appeals court meted out the heaviest possible sentence to the 74-year-old ex-minister. High-ranking judicial sources suggested that Tsochatzopoulos would serve at least eight years in prison -- a third of the sum of the 20-year sentence and another conviction from March – an eight-year jail term for failing to properly declare his assets to authorities.

Tsochatzopoulos’s wife Viki Stamati and his daughter Areti Tsochatzopoulou were both sentenced to 12 years in jail. The former head of procurements at the Defense Ministry, Yiannis Sbokos, got 16 years, the businessman Giorgos Sachpatzidis was given 13 years, while Asterios Economidis, the head of one of the offshore firms linked to the money laundering racket, got 12 years. Only Nikos Zigras, the ex-minister’s first cousin and one-time confidant, was shown leniency after cooperating with judicial authorities with judges giving him six years.

Zigras was the only one of the original 19 defendants who admitted to any involvement in the racket and had pressed Tsochatzopoulos to “tell the truth” until the very last court session. Tsochatzopoulos’s ex-wife, Gudrun Moldenhauer, was also given six years. Two of the 19 co-defendants were acquitted.

It was decided that all those who have been in pre-trial custody would remain there whether they appeal their sentences or not, except for Zigras whose testimony was a crucial tool for prosecutors seeking to make a watertight case.

Tsochatzopoulos, a co-founder of PASOK and former socialist stalwart, was found to have pocketed some 55 million euros in bribes from defense deals while serving as defense minister from 1996 to 2001, chiefly from the purchase of a missile-defense system from Russia and submarines from Germany. His lawyers had contested the basis of the trial, as Tsochatzopoulos could not be prosecuted for bribe-taking due to the statute of limitations. The statute does not apply to money laundering.

Vehemently denying all charges, despite significant evidence, the ex-minister had claimed he was being unfairly targeted by the political establishment and had called for testimony from members of the former Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense, who co-signed the deals he sealed. The request was refused by judges who said they were focusing on the cash trail rather than the deals. | Former defense minister gets 20 years in jail

Greece retries journalist who leaked 'Lagarde list' of suspected tax evaders

Helena Smith in Athens The Guardian, Tuesday 8 October 2013

Kostas Vaxevanis published details of of more than 2,000 wealthy Greeks with cash deposits in Switzerland

Kostas Vaxevanis

Kostas Vaxevanis was acquitted almost a year ago for leaking the 'Lagarde list' in his investigative magazine Hot Doc/ Photograph: Orestis Panagiotou/EPA

The journalist who caused uproar in Greece by publishing the so-called 'Lagarde list' of suspected tax evaders with bank accounts in Switzerland, is due in court on Tuesday on charges of infringing privacy laws.

Almost a year after he was acquitted of the crime, Kostas Vaxevanis will be in the dock again after a public prosecutor took the unusual step of demanding he be retried for revealing the identities of more than 2,000 wealthy Greeks with cash deposits in Geneva.

"What is at stake is the ability of a journalist to exercise his duty as a public watchdog in a case of major public interest," his lawyer, Harris Ikonomopoulos said.

A hotly guarded secret until it was printed by Vaxevanis in his investigative magazine Hot Doc last October, the list details the holdings of 2,059 Greeks at the Geneva branch of HSBC.

Christine Lagarde, the then French finance minister , handed the list to Greek authorities in October 2010 with the express purpose of pursuing tax offenders.

Lagarde, now the IMF's managing director, hoped it would shine a light on tax evasion, wideley seen as the root of the debt-stricken country's financial woes.

But instead of putting it to such use, her Greek counterpart George Papaconstantinou has been accused of deliberately failing to act on it. This year, the Greek parliament voted to send the former finance minister to court after MPs found there was enough evidence to suggest he had tampered with the dossier to remove the names of his relatives included in it.

"Other European countries that received similar lists from France investigated the persons and entities on them and collected a significant amount in taxes that had been evaded," Ikonomopoulos said.

"Vaxevanis published the Lagarde list after discovering that Papaconstantinou had received it and done nothing to investigate its content."

He has vehemently denied that he erased the names of two of his cousins and their spouses. Instead, he has argued that he has been turned into a scapegoat by an establishment now under intense pressure to clean up the country's scandal-plagued political scene.

The British-educated economist is much loathed for being the architect of the punitive austerity measures outlined in Greece's first EU-IMF sponsored rescue programme.

But the case has also highlighted press censorship.

The demand that the journalist be retried after the public prosecutor's office deemed his initial acquittal to be flawed triggered international condemnation and was met with broad disbelief in Greece.

"It is ridiculous that I am being put on trial for publishing the list when parliament has decided to send the minister who hid it to court," Vaxevanis told the Guardian on the eve of his hearing. "It is tragic that this should be happening when Greek authorities, from the courts to the police, have found it impossible to clamp down on tax avoidance and the extreme right Golden Dawn party, preferring to target journalists who reveal the truth instead."

Greece retries journalist who leaked 'Lagarde list' of suspected tax evaders | World news | The Guardian

Parties on edge as Golden Dawn case has potential to go either way


On a trip to the USA this week, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said his government was in the process of “completely eradicating” Golden Dawn. Events in Athens over the past few days suggest that this will not happen quickly, if it happens at all.

Despite Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, the party’s number two Christos Pappas and MP Panagiotis Lagos being remanded in custody this week, there is still an extremely long way to go before authorities can prove that the Neo-Nazi party’s leadership formed a criminal organization – a felony under Greek law that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The possibility that Golden Dawn will be a thorn in the government’s side for some time to come was underlined by judicial officials deciding to release on bail three other Golden Dawn MPs, including party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris. The image of the three neofascist lawmakers walking away from court, hitting and abusing journalists and claiming that “only bullets” would stop them was highly damaging for Samaras and his administration.

Since the shock arrests of Golden Dawn’s leadership over the weekend, many commentators have expressed concern about whether authorities have a watertight case against the party. The sight of Michaloliakos and his MPs being acquitted or the impression that their court case is driven by political expediency would be highly damaging for the government and extremely beneficial for Golden Dawn. The conditional release of Kasidiaris and his two fellow deputies provided a foretaste of this nightmare scenario for the coalition. With the media spotlight on them, the MPs were able to send a message to party supporters that they are being persecuted by a corrupt government and complicit media.

Reportedly, Samaras was angered by the decision to release the three deputies, leading to questions about whether Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias and Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou had done their jobs properly. Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the prime minister was “surprised” that Kasidiaris and Co were out on the streets again. Rumours of possible ministerial resignations were quickly doused. Despite the obvious concern generated in New Democracy and PASOK, members of both parties remained relatively tight-lipped during this week’s developments. PASOK leader and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos reportedly asked his party colleagues to refrain from criticising the magistrate or prosecutor involved in the case.

Clearly, any overreaction from the government at this stage would only exacerbate some people’s suspicions about the political motives behind the prosecution of Golden Dawn. This could jeopardise the investigation and would certainly undermine any hopes of making political gains from the clampdown on the far right party.

Noticeably, leftist opposition SYRIZA also had a low key reaction to Kasidiaris being bailed. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras limited himself to putting his faith in the Greek justice system, although he did keep up criticism of Dendias for not acting earlier and failing to root out the influence Golden Dawn has within the police force. SYRIZA’s decision to tread carefully underlines the Greek political system’s fear that the pursuit of Golden Dawn could blow up in its hands.

So far, the revelations about the party’s alleged activities have dented its popularity but not to the extent that it looks like it will disappear imminently as a political force. A poll by VPRC published on Thursday indicated that support for Golden Dawn had fallen from 14.5 percent in July to 8.5 percent. While it is a substantial decline, it should be noted that 8.5 percent is still almost two percentage points more than the party received during last summer’s elections and well above the 3 percent threshold for entering Parliament.

The poll has SYRIZA just ahead of New Democracy (29.5 percent vs 29) and Golden Dawn is still in third place. It also underlines the tendency for supporters abandoning Golden Dawn to back New Democracy instead. Of the voters who left the far right party, 13 percent drifted to New Democracy. The next most popular option was “undecided” and “other parties,” which both gathered 8.5 percent. Surprisingly, SYRIZA and the Communist Party followed with 4 percent each.

The survey, carried out for Rizopoulos Post between September 25 and October 3, points to one of the reasons that Golden Dawn’s popularity has not dropped more during recent weeks. When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the claim that the extremist party is a “criminal organisation,” 68 percent of respondents agreed to a greater or lesser extent but 16 percent were not convinced.

As the judicial process progresses and more information becomes public, it is possible that fewer Greeks will be willing to believe that Golden Dawn is clean and is being victimised. If the probe is not handled carefully, though, there is a serious possibility that the opposite could happen.

Parties on edge as Golden Dawn case has potential to go either way | Macropolis

Golden Dawn support down to 2012 levels but with potential to rise again, poll shows


Support for Golden Dawn has fallen to pre-election levels according a new poll, which also suggests that about a fifth of Greeks do not have a dim view of the neofascist party despite the recent arrest of its leadership.

The Alco survey published on Sunday indicated that support for the extremist party had fallen to 6.4 percent, which is half a percentage point less than the vote it received in last June’s elections. Significantly, the figures for October are considerably down on June, when the party’s backing reached 10.8 percent.

Despite the drop in support, the poll published in Proto Thema newspaper underlines the findings of other surveys in the past few days, which show that a sizeable proportion of Greeks are not yet willing to believe that Golden Dawn is the threat to Greece that its opponents and the country’s authorities claim.

Although 68 percent of Greeks agree with the charge against Golden Dawn that views the grouping as a criminal organisation, 22 percent disagree and another 10 percent are undecided. Equally, 66 percent of respondents believe the Neo-Nazi party is a threat to democracy but 26 percent don’t. Finally, 64 percent think it is right that state funding for Golden Dawn should be stopped but 24 percent say taxpayers’ money should continue to flow to the party.

While the decline in overall support for the party will serve as an encouragement to the government in particular, the fact that up to a quarter of voters still display some sympathy or understanding for Golden Dawn emphasises that the effort to eradicate the party’s influence is far from over. It also points to the possibility of a revival in the group’s fortunes if its prosecution fails to yield results as a significant part of the Greek population still sees Golden Dawn as a legitimate outlet for their frustration, perhaps choosing to ignore the party’s ideology and actions.

As for the other parties, the Alco poll underlines the benefits from the clampdown on Golden Dawn. New Democracy increased its support from 21.5 percent in late September to 22.8 percent in the first three days of October, when the poll was carried out. SYRIZA also saw its backing rise from 20.3 percent to 21.9 percent.

PASOK remains in fourth place behind Golden Dawn with 6.2 percent. Independent Greeks fell to 5 percent, the Communist Party (KKE) was steady at 4.7 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) was up slightly to 3.9 percent.

Golden Dawn support down to 2012 levels but with potential to rise again, poll shows | Macropolis

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos jailed after murder of anti-racism rapper

Heather Saul Thursday 03 October 2013


Mihaloliakos was detained in the early hours of this morning after appearing before magistrates in a six hour overnight testimony

Golden Dawn - Greece's third most popular party, according to opinion polls - has denied any links to the rapper's killing and Mihaloliakos has warned it may pull its 18 lawmakers from parliament if the crackdown does not stop

The leader of the extremist right-wing party Golden Dawn has been remanded in a Greek jail, pending trial on charges of running a criminal organisation, in an investigation triggered by the murder of an anti-racism rapper.

Nikos Mihaloliakos was detained in the early hours of this morning, after appearing before magistrates at an Athens court in an overnight testimony that lasted over six hours. Mr Mihaloliakos, who is a sitting member of Greek parliament, was among 20 people, including five of his party law makers, arrested over the weekend in a crackdown against the Nazi-inspired party following the fatal stabbing of rap singer Pavlos Fyssas on 18 September.

A man arrested at the scene of the attack identified himself as being a supporter of Golden Dawn. The party has vehemently denied any role in the murder.

Mr Mihaloliakos was led away from the court as his wife and daughter stood with other members of Golden Dawn outside the courtroom, chanting messages of support.

The court also ordered Giorgos Patelis, the head of Golden Dawn's local office in the area west of Athens where Fyssas was stabbed, to be remanded in custody.

A sixth party lawmaker, Christos Pappas, who the prosecution has described as Michaloliakos' second in command, is to appear in court for his preliminary hearing later today.

Party lawmaker Yiannis Lagos was also jailed on Wednesday pending trial. Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, also a lawmaker, was released on a 50,000 euro (£41,900) bail, while no bail was set for the other two lawmakers who were released, Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos. All three were banned from leaving the country.

After Kasidiaris left the courtroom, the politician deliberately knocked the camera off the shoulder of a journalist, pushed a photographer and threatened the media.

The far-right party has also been accused of attacking immigrants in a series of violent attacks, although they deny any involvement.

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos jailed after murder of anti-racism rapper - Europe - World - The Independent

BBC News - Greece's Golden Dawn: 'Don't say a word or I'll burn you alive'

 Mark Lowen 

By Mark Lowen BBC News, Athens

Members and supporters of the extreme right Golden Dawn party march in central Athens, May 2013

Golden Dawn has recently been riding a wave of support

Related Stories

A fortnight ago, Golden Dawn was feeling smug. Greece's neo-Nazi party was riding high in the opinion polls at about 15%, double what it got in last year's election.

Its support was soaring among a nation buckling under its worst financial crisis in living memory. It had opened new offices, lectures it hosted presenting the party's view of Greek history were proving popular, its 18 MPs appeared untouchable.

But Pavlos Fyssas changed all that. A left-wing hip hop musician and activist, he had spent the evening watching football on TV in a bar near Athens. As he left, he was set upon by a group. The man arrested for stabbing him to death confessed to being an active supporter of Golden Dawn.

The murder prompted a national outcry. Tens of thousands took to the streets, demanding that the violent neo-Nazis be reined in.

Greek Golden Dawn MPs leave court pending trial

Some of Golden Dawn's arrested MPs have been released pending trial

And then, in a weekend morning raid, the government sprang into action. Some 22 members were arrested, six of them MPs, including the party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos. They were charged with belonging to a criminal group, with counts including murder, assault and money-laundering.

'Offer of violence'

Police say they found evidence linking the killer of Pavlos Fyssas to the Golden Dawn leadership. In the homes of MPs arrested, they said they uncovered photos of Adolf Hitler and swastika flags. Witness testimony told of a "Fuehrer-like" party structure, commanding hit squads that drove through Athens attacking migrants.

Whistleblowers are now under police protection. But we traced a former supporter who offered us a rare insight into how the party functions.

She attended Golden Dawn meetings looking for support, after being harassed by a man.

"Inside, I saw clubs and shields," she tells me. "Everyone stood to attention when the leader came in. They talked of beating up gay and dark-skinned people."

She lights a cigarette and holds back the tears.

"A party member came to visit me," she says. "He made me an offer: he could break someone's arm and leg for 300 euros [£250]. Set a car on fire for 1,000 euros. Put someone in hospital for a month for 1,500 euros.

"I didn't want any of it, so I broke off communication. Later he came back and told us not to say a word or he'd burn us alive."

Police collusion?

So why, when the party's vigilante nature was well known, did the authorities not act sooner?


“Start Quote

We have no involvement in the killing of Pavlos Fyssas. You can buy a T-shirt for 10 euros and you can stab anyone you like. So does it mean Golden Dawn is responsible for your actions?”

End Quote”

Artemios Mathaiopoulos Golden Dawn spokesman

Greece's Racist Violence Reporting Network found that in 2012, there were 154 cases of racist attacks and, so far this year, 104. Two immigrants were murdered. Almost every incident is attributed to Golden Dawn.

One theory for the failure to act against this is the alleged collusion of the police. In last year's election, figures from some areas of Athens suggested that one in every two police officers voted for Golden Dawn.

Several high-ranking members of the force have been suspended in the recent clampdown on the party, with others resigning.

Footage filmed by the website showed men in plain clothes standing close to riot squads policing an anti-fascist demonstration two weeks ago, hurling rocks at the left-wing activists. At least one of the men has been identified as a Golden Dawn member.

Amateur video from shows alleged Golden Dawn sympathisers clashing with left wing protesters in Athens

We met a Pakistani immigrant stabbed three times by suspected Golden Dawn supporters. A year on, the scars are still there - one just millimetres from his heart. On his stomach is a lump of scar tissue from the second wound, which has never healed.

But, he says, the police did nothing, launching no investigation and never contacting him beyond a first conversation.

"It's because I'm a foreigner", he says. "The police never act with us. If it were a Greek who got stabbed, they'd hunt the aggressor immediately. Now I'm terrified to go outside.

"I want to leave Greece for somewhere safer, like England."

A Pakistani immigrant in Greece shows a scar following a stabbing by suspected Golden Dawn supporters

A Pakistani immigrant survived being stabbed close to his heart

But the government has defended itself against charges of dragging its feet. The Minister for Public Order, Nikos Dendias, says the murder of Pavlos Fyssas was the first time that a clear chain of command could be drawn to the highest echelons of Golden Dawn.

"Any citizen or head of a political party could report Golden Dawn to the supreme court to have it classified as a criminal organisation," he tells me.

"The fact that nobody did until now shows there was not enough proof."

I put it to him that he had appeased Golden Dawn for the last year so as to push through the government's crackdown on illegal immigration. And that it had taken the killing of a white Greek citizen for authorities to spring into action.

"I totally reject that," he says. "Criminal files have been opened in all the cases until now. But to claim that a criminal organisation was created, you have to have very clear evidence. When that came, we acted. And we took a huge political risk."

Beginning of end?

It is a risk that appears to be paying off. For the first time since the election, Golden Dawn has dropped significantly in the opinion polls - down to about 6%. Daily revelations about weapons found in suspects' homes should, the government hopes, turn the public mood against the party.

But its acting spokesman, Artemios Mathaiopoulos, remains defiant. "We are a political movement that has no relation to crime", he tells me outside police headquarters. "We have no involvement in the killing of Pavlos Fyssas."

I put it to him that police found Golden Dawn clothing and other items in the assailant's home.

"You can buy a T-shirt for 10 euros and you can stab anyone you like. So does it mean Golden Dawn is responsible for your actions?"

Is this the beginning of the end of his party, I ask?

"It's the beginning of the end of the government", he proudly replies.

But Greece's neo-Nazi party is in chaos. Decapitated of its leadership, on the back foot and facing a barrage of damaging disclosures, it is hard to see Golden Dawn being able to fight back.

That said, it still has a significant support base among Greeks exhausted by the financial crisis, revolted by the political mainstream and seeing salvation in ultra-nationalism.

The government can crush the party structure, but removing its ideology and bringing its supporters back from the extreme will be the real challenge.

BBC News - Greece's Golden Dawn: 'Don't say a word or I'll burn you alive'

Golden Dawn leader appears in Athens court accused of orchestrating violence

Helena Smith in Athens The Guardian, Thursday 3 October 2013

Far-right leader Nikos Michaloliakos charged with operating a criminal organisation that targets immigrants and opponents

Nikos Michaloliakos

Golden Dawn party leader Nikos Michaloliakos is escorted by masked police to an Athens court Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

The head of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party has appeared in court, in a highly anticipated defence of charges that he used the group to operate a criminal organisation that sowed terror on the streets of the country.

His hands cuffed, Nikos Michaloliakos was brought to Athens's court complex as followers cheered on the man accused of being the pre-eminent face of neo-Nazism in Europe.

"Blood, honour, Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn)," they screamed as the squat, grey-haired politician was led under armed guard into the building.

The first elected party chief to be arrested in Greece since the fall of military rule almost four decades ago, Michaloliakos is expected to adopt the same stance as five other Golden Dawn MPs also arrested on Saturday, arguing he is the victim of political persecution.

The 56-year-old mathematician is believed to have spent days combing through a 4,000-page dossier drawn up by a supreme court prosecutor outlining Golden Dawn's alleged crimes over the past 20 years.

Charges include founding a political force that subscribes to the principles of Nazi ideology and actively indulges in widespread violence, targeting immigrants, minorities and political opponents.

Three of the four MPs arrested alongside Michaloliakos were released on Wednesday pending trial. A fourth deputy, Yannis Lagos, was ordered to be kept in detention following charges that, like Michaloliakos, he was directly connected to the death of Greek hip-hop star Pavlos Fyssas on September 17 in a working class suburb of Athens.

Ilias Kasidiaris, the party's press officer, was freed on condition that he posted €50,000 (£42,000) in bail. All of the men were told they could not leave the country.

Opposition politicians and lawyers voiced fears that while executed with good intent, the charge sheet had been put together "overly hastily".

"This development shows that at least in the eyes of the court authorities the case was not substantiated enough," said Harris Ikonopoulos, the publisher of the left-leaning daily Eleftherotypia and a prominent lawyer. "It creates the perception that Greece is becoming a failed state where none of its institutions or the rule of law work."

Freed from custody, the Golden Dawn politicians showed their contempt for the media, shoving, kicking and spitting at photographers outside the Athens court. "Now you will see you disgusting people," one of the deputies, Ilias Panagiotaros, said. "You will only stop us with bullets."

The extremists have been held responsible for hundreds of assaults in the 16 months since they were elected with 18 MPs and 7% of the vote to the Athens parliament in June last year.

As the alleged mastermind of a criminal gang, Michaloliakos has also been linked to the murder of Fyssas, who rapped about the rise of racism in Greece.

The brutal stabbing, by a self-proclaimed member of Golden Dawn, spurred Antonis Samaras's coalition government to take what officials are now describing as "the huge risk" of launching the crackdown last weekend.

From the US, where he is on an official trip, Samaras vowed to eradicate the evil of neo-Nazism, saying there was "no place" for it in any state.

Golden Dawn leader appears in Athens court accused of orchestrating violence | World news | The Guardian

Golden Dawn leaders brought to court to face charges of murder and assault

Helena Smith in Athens, Wednesday 2 October 2013

Greeks stunned not only by revelations about country's far right group but also by strength of clampdown

Golden Dawn members arrested on charges of formation of a criminal organisation

Anti-terror police officers escort members of the ultra rightwing Golden Dawn party at the courthouse in Athens. Photograph: Orestis Panagiotou/EPA

When the moment of justice came for Golden Dawn it happened in a flash. One by one, the men who had headed the neo-Nazi party were delivered to court with lighting speed, black SUVs screeching to a halt as riot police kept onlookers at bay and agents in bulletpoof vests and balaclavas pushed the burly politicians, handcuffed and smiling, into building number six.

"We are crystal clean," one MP, Nikos Michos, managed to shout as he was led into the Athens courtroom. And then it was over.

Tuesday's scenes were the second act of a drama that started in the early hours of Saturday when counter-terrorism officials, in an unprecedented operation, arrested the most prominent figures of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn movement on charges of operating a criminal organisation masked as a political group.

Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the extremists' enigmatic leader, was said to be in his pyjamas when police surrounded his home and knocked at the door. Like his second-in-command, Christos Pappas, who subsequently surrendered, and the four MPs who were hauled before a public prosecutor on Tuesday, he stands accused of murder, money-laundering, blackmail and illegal possession of arms.

Greeks are stunned by the latest developments. They are shocked not only by the tactics employed by police, and the ferocity with which they have clamped down on the group but also the revelations that have since emerged surrounding the country's third biggest political force.

Four years into the debt-stricken country's worst crisis in modern times, there is widespread disbelief. None more so than in the migrant communities of Athens, where the far-rightists had overseen a reign of terror, escalating attacks on dark-skinned foreigners as their ratings soared in the polls.

"Every night we've been scared," said Shahid Sahid, a Bangladeshi immigrant who has lived in the Greek capital with his wife for the past 26 years. "They would roam the streets with clubs and iron bars looking for people like me."

On Tuesday, however, Golden Dawn diehards, led by Michaloliakos's daughter, Ourania, massed at the court complex to greet the MPs as heroes. "We are with you," they cried.

The anti-immigrant party has virulently denied accusations of criminal intent, insisting it had nothing to do with the death of Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old Greek musician whose brutal murder two weeks ago triggered the crackdown. The rapper died within minutes of being stabbed by a self-professed member of Golden Dawn.

As they testified before an investigating magistrate the four MPs, led by Ilias Kasidiaris, the party's one-time spokesman, claimed that the charges were politically-motivated – a reflection, he said, of the government's terror at the group's runaway success in the polls.

Eleni Zaroulia, Golden Dawn's only female MP and Michaloliakos's wife, threw a plastic cup from which she had been drinking and then spat at a journalist when asked what the party's reaction to the allegations were.

"Get out of here. I'm speaking to you in Greek!" she shouted before spitting again.

The 48-year-old MP, who has given speeches denouncing "subhuman foreigners" in parliament, will take over the reins of Golden Dawn, while her husband, believed to have been referred to as "the Führer" by cadres, remains behind bars.

On Tuesday his continuing detention looked increasingly possible as police, citing intercepted telephone calls, announced they had incontrovertible proof linking the leader to Fyssas's murder. The revelations came as ex-members described how the extremists had recruited young Greeks, often desperate for work, with promises of money and a job.

"It is very easy to join Golden Dawn but very hard to leave," one member was quoted as telling police in testimony leaked to the media. "When I stopped going to meetings I received threatening telephone calls."

In a detailed account of the "brain-washing" recruits received, another supporter described how members had been trained in Nazi-style hit-squads to attack immigrants, "especially Pakistanis for fun".

Golden Dawn has been linked to more than 300 assaults – mostly directed at migrants but more recently targeting gay people and leftists – since it was elected to the Greek parliament with almost 7% of the vote and 18 MPs in June 2011.

The far-right party has long rejected accusations that it is a neo-Nazi organisation. But those denials were roundly rebuffed this week when police unearthed Nazi paraphernalia in the houses of several of the MPs.

While Michaloliakis had a framed picture of Hitler in his home, Pappas, the party's chief policymaker and holder of some of its hardest views, kept books, pictures and flags honouring the Führer in his own maisonette – along with vintage wine bottles emblazoned with the image of the Italian dictator and fellow fascist Benito Mussolini. Both men will appear before an investigating magistrate, who will decide whether to imprison them pending trial, this week.

Golden Dawn leaders brought to court to face charges of murder and assault | World news |