The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) commends yesterday’s Greek court decision concluding a five-year-long trial, which found far-right political party Golden Dawn to have been operating as a criminal organization.
The organization is well-known in Greece for having been responsible for numerous murders and assaults over the course of its existence since 1980. Golden Dawn used violence and intimidation tactics against those it perceived as its enemies, which included members of religious and ethnic minority groups and those who did not align with their political perspectives. The court found the criminal actions of Golden Dawn members were not random, but carefully planned and instructed. Over a dozen former party lawmakers including the organization’s anti-Semitic founder, Nikos Michaloliakos, were declared guilty in Athens.
For Macedonians, like many others, this too is a victory for democracy and human rights. The persecution of Macedonians, particularly by Golden Dawn, is commonly known and has been a major barrier for ethnic Macedonians living in Greece. Since the introduction of the Prespa Agreement, violence and harassment, particularly against ethnic Macedonians, by the neo-Nazi group had ramped up. Notably, as tensions continued to mount, the organization was seen rallying against an ethnic Macedonian festival in order to incite fear in its participants. Additionally, the death of an Albanian citizen in Corfu, on the basis of a disagreement concerning “Macedonia,” was linked to the Golden Dawn movement. In 2013, then-UMD Greece Representative, Eugenia Natsoulidou, faced direct harassment, in part through media attacks by a pro-Golden Dawn journalist whose defamatory writing was riddled with anti-Macedonian slurs. This, sprouted further incidents of harassment which included death threats against Natsoulidou and extended to the maltreatment of religious leader Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias at the hands of Greek media.
The extremism and hatred that Golden Dawn breeds have no place in a democratic and progressive 21st century Europe. The court’s decision should be hailed as a milestone in the fight against fascism in Greece and Europe more broadly. In fact, the gravity of the trial was summed up by Thanassis Kambagiannis, one of the prosecution’s lawyers, as “the largest court hearing of Nazis since Nuremberg.” UMD hopes that Greek courts continue to champion the rights of those targeted by such hate-crimes and violence in the future just as they have done yesterday. UMD remains hopeful democracy will prevail in Greece and Greek authorities will grant equal human rights and religious freedom to their sizeable Macedonian minority.