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May 12, 2014

Greek Court Allows Neo-Nazi Party to Run for European Parliament

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First expressed deep concern today about the upcoming elections in Greece, in which the  neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party will be running  candidates both in local elections on May 18 and in the European Parliament elections on May 25.

Yesterday, the Greek Supreme Court ruled that  Golden Dawn candidates who have been charged with crimes will be permitted on the May 25 ballot, as they have not been convicted. While the decision is consistent with democratic principles, it underscore the importance of the Greek government prosecuting a credible case against Golden Dawn, which is alleged to be a violent criminal organization masquerading as a political party. Yesterday’s ruling was followed by today’s announcement that Greek police had intercepted two bullets and a letter containing death threats that were sent to the chief prosecutor of the Greek Supreme Court. It was that prosecutor, Efterpi Koutzaman, who first appointed two magistrates to conduct a special investigation of Golden Dawn. Initial reports indicated that other judicial officials, and their families, were among those threatened, but police did not immediately release the letter.

“It’s important that there be no impunity for the hundreds of cases of violent attacks on migrants, LGBT persons, and political opponents of Golden Dawn,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke, who recently returned from Greece.  Human rights groups have documented at least 166 documented cases of racially-motivated attacks that have terrorized migrants for the last two years, including a migrant worker from Somalia who was attacked by thugs who carved Golden Dawn's insignia into his back, an Egyptian who was tortured, and a Pakistani killed bicycling to work. 

Human Rights First urges the U.S. government and European authorities to support the Greek government’s efforts to investigate and prosecute Golden Dawn leaders for their roles in violent attacks. Golden Dawn’s leaders are accused of involvement in crimes including murder, attacks on migrants, and weapons charges, and six top leaders remain in jail.   

“Greek authorities should do everything possible to make sure the magistrates have the resources to investigate this critical case to the full extent of the law,” said Stahnke. “And U.S. and European law enforcement agencies should offer to help them in any possible way.”

Polls indicate that Golden Dawn may, for the first time, gain a seat in the European Parliament, part of a trend of far-right parties across Europe that are expected to win big in parliamentary elections.   Analysts say public anger over Greece’s economic collapse and the austerity measures imposed as a condition of the country’s bailout have fueled Golden Dawn’s popularity.

 “It’s now up to Greek voters to reject this violent and fascist party,” said Stahnke.  “Rewarding a group accused of vicious human rights abuses and putting a neo-Nazi in the European Parliament will not help Greece solve its problems.” 

Two former Greek generals who are not involved in the case have announced they will be among the 10 Golden Dawn candidates for the European Parliament. One is a former head of the Greek Army Special Forces. Their candidacy for an anti-E.U., pro-Russian party, in a country that is a NATO member, has underscored concerns about Golden Dawn’s ties with the Greek state, including the army and the police.  More than 50 Golden Dawn candidates are slated to run in the local elections that will begin on May 18.  Lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris, who sports a swastika tattoo and once read from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" on the floor of parliament, is running for mayor of Athens.

For more information, see Human Rights First’s fact sheets: The Greek Elections and Human Rights and Antisemitic and Racist Statements by Greek Political Leaders. To speak with Stahnke, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.