A provincial branch of the neonazi Golden Dawn party was bankrolled by a wealthy businessman who was a member of New Democracy and it enjoyed immunity from the police, a Golden Dawn defector has told a leading US human rights organisation.
The unidentified man told Human Rights First that the businessman gave financial backing to Golden Dawn because he wanted it to do well in the 2012 elections so that New Democracy could end its uneasy coalition with socialist Pasok and team up with Golden Dawn instead.
“Golden Dawn is the militia arm of New Democracy,” the businessman told the defector, who will be a witness in the forthcoming criminal case against leading Golden Dawn figures, which is due to start in November. He said the businessman also spent more than $1,500 (€1,100) on military outfits for its cadres. The businessman also paid for their offices and gave them advice, including “Don’t go and attack migrants in the middle of the day.”
The defector also told Human Rights First that his Golden Dawn unit enjoyed immunity from the police.
“The police had specific orders not to touch us,” he said, adding that when four Golden Dawn members attacked two Pakistani migrants and beat them “really, really badly”, he received a phone call from the local police chief who had ties to the local Golden Dawn boss and told him the case would not be investigated.
“Once they realised they could operate with impunity, they turned to intimidation for profit, evicting recalcitrant tenants and collecting debts,” the report continues.
The man said that his Golden Dawn branch had over 2,000 members and was located in an area with a 50% unemployment rate.
— Damian Mac Con Uladh (@damomac) August 14, 2014
His testimony is included in a major report (pdf), published on August 14 by Human Rights First, that details the rise and the threat posed by the “hate parties” of Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary.
“Golden Dawn is no ordinary ultra-nationalist party. No other extreme right party in Europe is as stridently racist, nativist and violent, none is so unapologetically antisemitic, and none so openly calls for the overthrow of the state,” states the report, entitled We’re not Nazis, but… and authored by Sonni Efron and Tad Stahnke.
Despite threats against him, the defector intends to testify that Golden Dawn was a “criminal organization,” as the government charges. But he added that the government allowed Golden Dawn to grow for its own gain, and only decided to take legal action only when the organisation became too powerful.
“‘Criminal organization’ is correct and precise, because Golden Dawn was organizing an army. One of the basic prerequisites to go up in the hierarchy was to go to special training camps,” he is quoted in the report, which is also critical of New Democracy’s “inflammatory rhetoric” in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
It said New Democracy leader “Antonis Samaras jumped on Golden Dawn’s antimigrant bandwagon, proclaiming, ‘Our cities have been taken over by illegal immigrants, we have to reclaim them.’
“With such inflammatory rhetoric, the New Democracy party failed to demonstrate to citizens that the uncontrolled migration and the conditions in which migrants lived would be addressed properly, that there was no need to resort to violence, or that vigilantes would be punished.”
In addition to underscoring the need “for a credible prosecution of Golden Dawn that meets the highest European judicial standards and is not tainted by claims of political motivation”, the report also calls on the government to “adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward and strongly condemn racist, antisemitic, or homophobic statements by public officials and members of the New Democracy party”. Other parties should also be encouraged to follow suit.