Court finds Greek neo-Nazi party a criminal group in landmark ruling
The judgment came to a background of clashes between police and anti-fascist demonstrators on the sidelines of a large protest of some 15,000 people.
Reading out the verdict in a trial that lasted over five years, presiding judge Maria Lepenioti said Golden Dawn founder and leader Nikos Michaloliakos and other senior members were guilty of running a criminal organization.
None of the party's senior members were present in court.
Michaloliakos and fellow senior members face jail sentences from five to 15 years.
The sentences were to be announced in separate hearings.
The crowd had started gathering two hours before the verdicts were handed down in response a call from the anti-fascist movement, trade unions and parties on the left.
"The people want the Nazis in jail", read the placards.
Hundreds of police were also deployed at the courthouse, a few kilometers from the historic center of the capital.
The prosecutions were sparked by the late-night murder of a 34-year-old anti-fascist rapper called Pavlos Fyssas, who was chased down by a mob of Golden Dawn thugs and stabbed to death in front of a cafe in the western Athens suburb of Keratsini in September 2013.
His mother Magda was seen entering the court ahead of the hearing.
The killer, former truck driver Yiorgos Roupakias, confessed, but the attack sparked outrage and the charges that Golden Dawn was a paramilitary-style organization that used beatings, intimidation and murder as tactics -- all with the knowledge of senior party members.
Also convicted on Oct. 7, Roupakias faces a life sentence.
On Oct. 6, lawmakers of the main opposition leftist Syriza party held up letters in parliament that spelled "they are not innocent".
There was uproar last year when chief prosecutor Adamantia Economou called for the acquittal of the party leaders on the basis that the existence of a criminal organization had not been proven.
In total, 68 members of the party have been on trial, including Michaloliakos and more than a dozen other former MPs like him who were elected in 2012 as the openly xenophobic group capitalized on discontent over joblessness and migration.
As well as delivering a verdict in the murder trial for Fyssas and the trial of senior leaders of Golden Dawn, the court was also to hand down judgments for two other assault cases allegedly involving Golden Dawn members.
An Egyptian fisherman was left with broken teeth and head injuries after being beaten with clubs and metal bars in June 2012 as he slept.
Just over a year later, Communists putting up posters were attacked with nail-studded clubs.
Golden Dawn was at its political peak at the time of Fyssas's murder, having won 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament in 2012 amid anger over a financial crisis in Greece that discredited mainstream political parties.
Three years later, it also sent three deputies to the European parliament in another strong showing.
But the investigation took its toll, causing a number of senior members to defect. In the last election in 2019, the party failed to win a single seat.