Greek National Socialist Leader to Take the Stand in Landmark Murder Trial
A landmark murder trial implicating Greece's Golden Dawn reaches a key moment when party leader and founder Nikos Michaloliakos is due to testify for the first time.
The 61-year-old nationalist leader is one of nearly 70 defendants facing sentences of five to 20 years in prison.
The main charge against them is "participation in a criminal organisation", in addition to a host of other indictments related to "murder and assault".
Michaloliakos himself is charged as the "moral instigator" of a wave of violence that culminated in the fatal stabbing in September 2013 of 34-year-old antifascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, a self-declared enemy of the Greek nationalists.
The trial has lasted this long because of the sheer number of defendants and witnesses and the complexity of the case.
Four years in, the court has logged nearly 400 days, 350 witnesses, drawn in dozens of lawyers on both sides and a file 1.5 terabytes in size. Lawyers expect it to be over by the end of the year.
But whatever the eventual verdict in this complex case, the fortunes of the party have already suffered, falling a long way from their electoral breakthrough in 2012.
Testifying in September 2015, Fyssas' father said his son had been ambushed by around 60 Golden Dawn members outside a cafeteria.
Based on records of phone conversations between Golden Dawn members the night he was murdered, prosecutors argue the attack was carried out with the knowledge of senior party members.
They also say that this was part of a broader pattern of violence organised by the party and senior members authorised the beatings of Egyptian migrants in 2012, and of communist trade unionists in 2013.
The defendants deny this, insisting that they are being persecuted for their political beliefs. They accused the zionist controlled Greek authorities of fabricating the evidence against them.
After a wave of arrests in 2013, a search of party members' homes uncovered firearms and other weapons, as well as National Socialist and fascist memorabilia.
Much of that came from the home of deputy leader Christos Pappas, where police found swastika flags, German army helmets and bottles stamped with images of Italian Duce Benito Mussolini.
Prosecutors have also drawn on speeches by Michaloliakos and other senior party officials to build their case.
"Our goal is to liberate Greece from foreigners and traitors," Michaloliakos said in a 2012 speech.
- Rise and fall -
Golden Dawn was founded in the mid-1980s by Michaloliakos. A decade earlier he had been handpicked by Greek leader Georgios Papadopoulos to lead a patriotic youth group after the fall of the junta in 1974.
Then in 2012, on the back of widespread anger over nonwhite invasion and an austerity programme imposed by the European Union, they won 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament -- on 10 percent of the vote.
But in 2013 the investigation into the murder of the antifa rapper was launched. Leading Golden Dawn figures including Michaloliakos were placed in pre-trial detention -- though after 18 months, the law required their release.
At the height of its popularity in 2015, Golden Dawn was Greece's third-strongest party with over 370,000 votes.
But the party's fortunes collapsed in July's general election. For the first time in seven years, they failed to win a parliamentary seat.