The first day of the highly anticipated Golden Dawn trial only lasted two hours as the neo-Nazi party’s leadership was absent. The court was adjourned until May 7.
Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and the rest of the party’s leadership, a total of 14 MPs, were absent. Giorgos Roupakias, the perpetrator of the murder of musician-activist Pavlos Fyssas was present.
Outside the high security Korydallos Prison, in Athens, Greece, where the trial is held in a specially constructed courtroom, there were two separate protest rallies: One of Golden Dawn members and another of anti-fascist groups.
The trial started at 9:20 am with the judge announcing the case, the names of the 69 accused and the names of witnesses. The Golden Dawn members and associates are accused of forming and operating a criminal organization. They also face charges ranging from murder to racist violence.
The trial, expected to last for one year, will likely decide the future of Greek Parliament’s third-largest party, an openly racist and anti-Semitic group that used to be on the fringes of national politics but whose popularity soared as the country sank into economic crisis.
Authorities expect the possibility of a confrontation between opposing protesters, both inside and outside the prison.
Inside, anti-fascist and anti-racism groups that have vowed to keep a close eye on the proceedings are planning to supply enough supporters to offset an expected crowd of Golden Dawn members.
“Golden Dawn members usually cram (into) the courtroom from dawn. We do not want this to happen, and will take all necessary measures to prevent it,” anti-fascist activist Takis Giannopoulos told AFP in the run-up to the trial.
Outside, local authorities are also preparing for disturbances, with police erecting barriers to keep the rival groups apatrt.
“This is Greece’s biggest trial in 40 years. It will last at least 18 months. There will be gatherings by anti-fascist groups and Golden Dawn supporters,” Korydallos mayor Stavros Kasimatis told AFP ahead of the trial.