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Greece: Sentencing hearings for Golden Dawn to resume Monday

Associated Press

Athens, Greece – An Athens court has extended to Monday a sentencing hearing for leading members and associates of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn convicted earlier this week of multiple crimes. Defense lawyers Friday for 18 former party lawmakers and dozens of other members and supporters presented arguments for more lenient sentences for a second day.

The lengthy sentencing procedure is the final chapter in a more than five-year politically charged trial that encompassed four cases and involved 68 defendants, more than 200 witnesses and over 60 lawyers.

Judge Maria Lepenioti, center, delivers the verdict in a court in Athens, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. The court has ruled the far-right Golden Dawn party was operating as a criminal organization, delivering landmark guilty verdicts.

Lawyers representing the former parliament members, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, are presenting mitigating circumstances including ill-health and lack of prior convictions for many of those convicted.

Magda Fyssa, the mother of late Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed and killed by a supporter of the extreme right Golden Dawn party in 2013 triggering a crackdown on the party, celebrates after the announcement of a court decision in Athens, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

Seven of the former lawmakers, including Michaloliakos and current European Parliament member Ioannis Lagos, have been found guilty of leading a criminal organization, and face five to 15 years in prison. The other 11 were found guilty of participating in a criminal organization, which carries a potential sentence of five to 10 years.

Founded as a Nazi-inspired group in the 1980s, Golden Dawn remained on the far fringes of politics until Greece’s brutal, near-decade-long financial crisis that began in 2009. It grew in support to eventually become the country’s third-largest party. Considered a model for many extreme-right groups in Europe and beyond, it won parliamentary seats in four elections from 2012 until 2019, when its popularity plummeted and it failed to elect any legislators.

Thousands of people gather for a protest outside a court in Athens, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

The trial against party lawmakers, members and supporters was sparked by the 2013 fatal stabbing of left-wing Greek rapper Pavlos Fyssas, and encompassed another three cases: physical attacks against Egyptian fishermen in 2012 and on left-wing activists in 2013, and whether Golden Dawn was operating as a criminal organization.

Giorgos Roupakias, accused of being a party supporter who delivered the fatal stab wounds to Fyssas, was found guilty of murder, possession and use of a weapon, and faces a potential life sentence. Fifteen others – none of them former lawmakers – were convicted as accomplices.

In this Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 file photo, supporters of Greece's extreme right Golden Dawn raise torches during a rally commemorating a 1996 military incident which cost the lives of three Greek navy officers and brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war, in Athens.

None of the former lawmakers, who had all served the maximum 18 months in pre-trial detention, appeared in court for the verdict on Wednesday or during the sentencing procedure.