Greek Appeals Court Head Vows Speedier Golden Dawn Trial

FILE - The trial of Golden Dawn leaders and followers goes on for more than 3 years, Athens, Jan. 9, 2018. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Tatiana Bollari)

ATHENS – The trial of the 15 lawmakers and dozens of members of the ultra-extreme right Golden Dawn party, in its fourth year, will be sped up, the head of the Athens Court of Appeals, Constantinos Stamadianos said.

He said judges hearing the case will be relieved of all other duties and that the number of monthly hearings will be increased to 15, with an eye to wrapping up proceedings by the end of 2019. The defendants usually don’t show up, aren’t being compelled to do so, and unless the trial is accelerated it’s expected to go on for years yet.

The case was brought after ant-fascist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death in September 2013, allegedly by a member of the party who was charged with murder but was released after a maximum 18-month pre-trial detention period.

The Greek Union of Judges and Prosecutors rejected criticisms the court system is to blame for delays in the trial even though it takes a decade or more to get cases heard in the courts.

The union said there’s a shortage of space. The court meets 10 times a month because there is no special room to conduct the procedure on a more regular basis,” it said.

The union said that since the trial began some 283 court sessions have been held and 150 witnesses have been examined although the defendants, including one charged with murder and released after a maximum 18-month pre-trial detention rarely show up and aren’t compelled.

The trial began on April 15, 2015, three months after Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras took power.

A dozen prosecution lawyers now have filed a petition requesting that the court expedite the process but cases in Greece can take years, even decades to be finished and there’s little incentive for anyone to show up.

The lawyers requested that more judges be assigned the case and for daily sessions. Thanasis Kampagiannis, a prosecution lawyer, explained that there are currently eight to 10 sessions a month.

“We are asking for it to speed up because, in the phase we’re now in, lawyers for Golden Dawn are stalling the process by asking for lots of papers and documents from the parliament,” he told Al Jazeera.

Membership in a criminal organization carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years. But for some defendants accused of murder and conspiracy to murder, the sentences could be steeper, if convicted. The party could also lose its parliamentary seats.

The number of files meant to be examined throughout the course of the proceedings number around 30,000, while both the prosecution and the defense have hundreds of witnesses. The breadth of evidence, coupled with procedural delays and occasional public sector strikes, has drawn out the case.

The court has held more than 250 sessions and heard from nearly 250 prosecution witnesses. With an estimated 230 defense witnesses yet to take the stand.

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