Europe, Headlines, Human Rights, Migration & Refugees, Press Freedom

GREECE: Seen From the Far Right, Media Is Garbage

Apostolis Fotiadis

ATHENS, Feb 20 2008 (IPS) - "Who are you with?" an excited fellow around 20 years old asked a journalist standing by, looking at riot police surrounding the main University of Athens building in downtown Athens.

Not receiving an answer he said, "I am from the Golden Dawn, and we keep an eye on journalists, because you are garbage."

The Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi group whose members have been involved in many violent attacks on migrants, leftist activists and anarchists. It is estimated to be a small group, but with many determined members among its ranks.

Its publications, which circulate freely, sell paraphernalia and music commemorating fascist regimes and their special military units such as the Nazi Waffen SS, which was a particularly brutal Nazi force.

Golden Dawn members had again been involved in clashes around the city centre with anarchists and other groups earlier this month. Many members of the notorious anarchist Black Block had retreated into the university building after hours of violent clashes with police and extreme right radicals.

The police are not allowed to enter university premises in Greece without permission from the rector and the university council. This legal right called &#39asylum&#39 is a legacy of the student movement since its 1973 uprising against dictatorship.

Many today want that right abolished since demonstrators can find refuge on university premises. Others think it an important right against abuse of power by authorities.

Anarchists confront police regularly in the centre of Athens, often destroying banks&#39 ATMs, burning cars, and injuring policemen. Riot police retaliate with teargas and beatings, the brutality of which has at times led to widespread uproar.

This time street fighting erupted when a group of anarchists and members of radical leftist organisations attempted to oppose a demonstration called by the Golden Dawn to commemorate the day of Imia (Jan. 31), an islet in the Aegean Sea over which Greece and Turkey almost went to war in 1996.

Five people were injured during the clashes; three of them were stabbed.

Some hours later, as clashes continued, video footage started circulating of riot policemen collaborating with members of the Golden Dawn, causing serious concern about the relations of police forces with fascist elements.

The police officially deny that riot police have joined forces with fascists, and blame the scale of violence on poor preparation on their side. The government says the police did nothing more than "stand between the two fronts."

Petros Tzomakos, a member of the Greek wing of Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE), who broke his hand during the clashes, sees things differently. "If in the past we could talk about police tolerating them, this time they clearly co-operated with the Golden Dawn. They backed them up while they assaulted people," he told IPS.

"They worked together with a gang who exists at the expense of society, stabbing migrants and beating up people who look or think differently. We demand that policemen present in the incident are brought to the courts to explain themselves."

According to a Greek Ombudsman&#39s special report in July 2004, the majority of abuses by uniformed officials go unpunished. This &#39culture of impunity&#39 also seems to apply to extreme right radicals – very few have faced justice for hate and racially motivated crimes during the last two decades.

According to the YRE, fascists are becoming more active. They have been involved in 20 cases of assault over the last six months, attacking or intimidating political activists, damaging their organisations&#39 offices, and brutally beating and stabbing migrants from Pakistan, Morocco and Sudan.

"There is a serious boost in extreme right radicals&#39 confidence lately," Tzomakos said. "Their ideological relatives are in the parliament for the first time (the extreme right Popular Orthodox Alarm), and they enjoy more support than before. We ought to face this before it is too late."

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