ATHENS – Deep into its fourth year with no sign of ending, the trial of the leaders and dozens of members of the accused neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party voted out of the Parliament is going on too long, lawyers for some of its victims said.
The trial, that meets only once in a while and the defendants refusing to show and not being compelled to appear despite facing charges of running a criminal gang – one charged with murder is out of jail under house arrest – is set to pick up on June 17.
But the lawyers who want it accelerated told the court they fear that if the COVID-19 Coronavirus that shut down judicial operations comes back in the autumn that the case will be pushed into a fifth year, said Kathimerini.
In their letter to the head of the Appeals Court, the 10 lawyers expressed concern that the trial may not be completed within reasonable time, or may even be extended indefinitely if there’s a new outbreak in the country, the paper said.
They said the trial should continue for the remaining days of June, and then July and September, noting that Golden Dawn defense attorneys keep dragging it out with delays and constant requests to speak again and again.
The lawyers for victims said if the case is accelerated it could be completed in October as the flu and virus season starts but said even if it's not completed by then that it must continue even during a second outbreak, with health protocols in court.
In November, 2019, after the testimony of hundreds of witnesses and scores of thousands of pages of evidence it was anticipated that the case could finally end sometime in 2020, but then COVID-19 hit in March this year.
The party leaders are accused of running a criminal gang, which they deny, even as it has splintered, losing defectors and fans after the 2013 murder of anti-Fascist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas for which one of its members, Giorgos Roupakias, is accused.
Longtime party leader Nikos Michaloliakos testified this month in his own defense, the Washington Times said in a feature then on the trial that has seen Greeks hunger for a verdict many expect will be Golden Dawn's death knell.
“It’s high time that Golden Dawn’s leadership is held accountable for the crimes its members have committed,” said Kostas Papadakis, one of the lawyers trying Golden Dawn told the paper even as the constant delays saw many Greeks losing interest but now eager for a result.
The party has existed since the late 1980s but for decades was a negligible force with only a few thousand supporters before entering Parliament in 2015 with 6 percent of the vote, gaining 17 seats it used to frequently disrupt proceedings but remained the third-largest in the country.
Golden Dawn gained points from Greeks disenchanted with mainstream party corruption and ineptitude and what is now a near decade-long economic crisis worsened for many with harsh austerity measures fueling even more fury.
It got only 2.93 percent of the vote in July 7, 2019 snap elections that saw the New Democracy Conservatives oust the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, the extremists missing the 3 percent benchmark needed to return to Parliament.