Far-left leader not guilty in Golden Dawn libel case

Court finds Savvas Michael-Matsas innocent of charges brought by neonazi party

EEK member asks court what right have 'fascists, the present-day nostalgists for Hitler' to bring charges against someone like Savvas Michael-Matsas, who 'lost half his family in Auschwitz'

Savvas Michael-Matsas addresses an EEK meeting (Photo: EEK) Savvas Michael-Matsas addresses an EEK meeting (Photo: EEK) An Athens court has found the leader of a far-left micro-party and a former university rector innocent of charges brought against them by neonazi Golden Dawn.

To the applause of over a hundred well wishers in court, Savvas Michael-Matsas, the general secretary of the tiny Revolutionary Workers' Party (EEK), and Konstantinos Moutzouris, a former rector of the Athens Polytechnic, were found not guilty of "libellous defamation", "incitement to violence and civil discord" and "disturbing the public peace".

The background to the trial against Michael-Matsas, a philosopher and intellectual, was a slogan - "The people don't forget, they hang fascists" - that appeared in an announcement for an antifascist protest organised by the Trotskyist party in May 2009.

Moutzouris was tried because the statement appeared on the radical website Athens Indymedia, which was then hosted on a university's server.

At the two-day trial, both defendants rejected the charges against them. The prosectutor also asked that the case against them be dismissed. 

A total of 23 people, from the world of the arts, literature and politics, were called to provide testimony on behalf of Michael-Matsas, including two Syriza MPs.

One of the Syriza MPs, Tasos Kourakis, described the case as "political persecution", as it was the duty of every intellectual to contribute to attacking every fascist, racist and narrow-minded thinking".

His colleague, Zoi Konstantopoulou, said the case was a "political diversion".

An EEK member, Yiorgos Mitrovgenis, asked: "Savvas Michael-Matsas lost half his family in Auschwitz. How is it possible that fascists, the present-day nostalgists for Hitler, can judge him?"

Many of Savvas Michael-Matsas' supporters said he was targeted by Golden Dawn – an openly antisemitic party – because he is Jewish.

Writing in Monday's Guardian, Maria Margaronis said: "It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Savvas has been selected not only as a radical but as a Jew."

A Trotskyist party founded in 1985, in the last elections it contested (May 2012), the EEK garnered a minuscule 6,095 votes, or about 0.10% of the total, a result dwarfed by the 440,966 votes (a 6.97% share) obtained by Golden Dawn.

Ilias Panayiotaros, a Golden Dawn MP who was among those who pressed the charges, failed to show up at the hearing. Also absent was one-time Golden Dawn election candidate Themis Skordeli, whose trial for stabbing an Afghan man in September 2011 has been postponed eight times.

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Ilias Panayiotaros
Golden Dawn
Revolutionary Workers' Party (EEK)
Tasos Kourakis
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Zoi Konstantopoulou