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Threatening atmosphere at Kasidiaris' trial

Antiracist protesters allege intimidation on part of Golden Dawn supporters

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Golden Dawn MP and spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris leaves the Athens courtroom, 07 March 2013 (Reuters) Golden Dawn MP and spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris leaves the Athens courtroom, 07 March 2013 (Reuters) Thursday's trial of Ilias Kasidiaris had a symbolic significance to the hundred-odd individuals standing outside the courtroom at the Felony Appeals Court on Alexandras Avenue and vying for a seat inside the courtroom.

But for some it had a personal significance - long before the the Golden Dawn MP and spokesman was acquitted on the grounds of doubt surrounding charges of assisting in the assault of a Athens Poilytechnic student in 2007.

“It’s my case, it concerns me!” a man with unkempt brown hair who identified himself as Kostas told the police officers guarding the courtroom. The officers urged him to be patient to which he replied, “I have been patient since 2007!”

By 8.30am the courtroom had been full for over an hour, according to people standing outside.

“The door was to open at 8am. It opened early at 7.30am and only Golden Dawn was allowed in,” said Angeliki Marinou, who came to “exert pressure for Kasidiaris to face the law as the rest of us”.

“From 7am Golden Dawn had occupied all the seats to create a pro-Kasidiaris climate in the courtroom for witnesses and judges,” Thanasis Kourkoulas, from the Deport Racism organisation, said.

“They could certainly change the outcome of the trial because they are muscular, two metres tall, with motorcycle helmets under their arms. If you were the head judge would you not be afraid during the trial and after on your way home?”

Kourkoulas requested officials to clear the courtroom before the trial began and then to admit a certain quota of pro-defence and pro-prosecution individuals so that the gallery was balanced. The request was denied.

One member of the crowd claimed that officials were periodically admitting Golden Dawn supporters to enter the courtroom while keeping others out. He identified with the prosecution but suggested that his friend might be able to get in because he was wearing a black leather jacket.

Polarised crowd

About one hundred people stand outside the courtroom where Kasidiaris is tried, vying for a seat inside (photo by Lynn Edmonds) About one hundred people stand outside the courtroom where Kasidiaris is tried, vying for a seat inside (photo by Lynn Edmonds) About a third of the crowd outside the courtroom were identifiable as Golden Dawn with their black leather jackets, motorcycle helmets, black gloves, and combat boots. They were mostly men, in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

“It is the first time I have seen so many Golden Dawn members gathered. You don’t see such people in the places you frequent usually … It’s a little scary to come alone,” Natalia Damigou-Papoti, who came with Marinou, said.

She admitted that “the atmosphere was better than expected. It could have been much worse.”

“At the last trial there were many people from Golden Dawn and not the other side," Marinou said, adding that this was "intimidating for lawyers and judges”.

Papoti emphasised the importance of bearing witness. “I consider this case very important, symbolically. The rise of fascism is an extreme social situation and I believe we must be present. We must demonstrate that we are here and it is not just the other extreme.”

There was clear polarisation among the crowd.

When an individual was let into the courtroom, someone muttered a complaint.

“Don’t worry, he’s one of ours,” someone next to him responded.

Tension

By 11.30am, there were no incidences of physical violence, though there were some verbal altercations by the entrance of the courtroom.

“I suggest you move. If something happens, it will happen right here,” a large man in a blue windbreaker with the word GREECE written all over it told me.

Early on three men became aggressive toward a young man with ambiguously Asian features, coming within inches of his face and speaking in a loud tone. A fourth individual stepped in and yelled “only talk here” until they stopped.

One man behind me noticed me writing in English and began questioning me, “Why don’t you write about the crimes the British have committed in Cyprus?” until another man who was with him said “let her do her job”.

Several members of Golden Dawn declined to be interviewed, saying that Golden Dawn MP Yiannis Lagos was their spokesperson and they would not comment.
 

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