Thursday, September 5, 2013

Charges against Savas Michael Matsas thrown out by judge in Athens

Applause following court victory over fascists

Savas victory salute outside the court

A well deserved moment  

Supporters greeting Savas after his victory in court

The trial of Savas Michael Matsas ended abruptly on Sept. 4,
just one day after it began, when the judge threw out all three charges against him in the lawsuit filed by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. Charges against the other defendant in the trial, Constantinos Moutzouris, a former rector of Athens' Polytechnic University, were also dismissed.  [For background on the lawsuit see the press release we published on August 6, Defend Savas Michael Matsas against the Golden Dawn fascists!.]  The trial attracted hundreds of demonstrators inside and outside the court house expressing their solidarity with Savas Michael and the struggle against fascism in Greece.

(Some of the posters outside the court house, reflecting the diverse political groups expressing their solidarity.)

"The state and Golden Dawn work together. For a United Front and a workers militia. EEK"

"Fascists step back, comrades forward! Solidarity to Savas Michael"

"You cannot criminalize discourse. Students’ anti-authoritarian front."

"Against political persecutions and the fascist turn. KKE (M-L)."

"Neonazis Out. Workers United will Never be Defeated. KEERFA."

Only three supporters of the Golden Dawn fascists dared to show their face and none of them appeared at the trial to testify.  According to an eyewitness account from the court house, when Savas Michael finished giving his speech he received such a huge round of applause that the judge began to scream in a desperate attempt to restore the "dignity" of the court.  No one should doubt that this is a huge victory.  The trial of Savas Michael marked the first time in decades that anyone was called upon to defend themselves in a European court against charges brought on by fascists. The trial would never have gone forward without the backing of the right wing coalition government led by Antonis Samaras,  the same government that administers the inhuman austerity measures imposed on the Greek working class and middle class dictated by the European troika.

Undoubtedly the publicity the trial began to receive on the international stage, all of it supportive of Savas Michael, proved embarrassing to the Greek government, exposing its corrupt judiciary system and the hollow shell that stands in for democracy in Greece.  A notable example of press coverage that forced the government to change course is the remarkable account that appeared a couple of days before the trial in the Guardian.  We are republishing that piece below.

We are also republishing an account of the conclusion of the trial from the French news agency, AFP.

While the dismissal of the charges against Savas Michael Matsas and Constantinos Moutzouris are undoubtedly a big setback for the Golden Dawn fascists, no one should think that the struggle against fascism in Greece can be restricted to the judicial arena.  That would be a huge mistake. Rather the lessons of the trial and its aftermath should be employed as an educational tool as part of the political struggle against fascism. And that political struggle is in turn intimately tied to the struggle for a socialist alternative to the austerity measures that are crippling Greece.  

Alex Steiner, Sept 5, 2013


From the Guardian:

It's absurd that Golden Dawn is being allowed to hound my friend into court

The trial of Savvas Michael-Matsas, one of the few Jewish public intellectuals in Greece, is a cheap sop to neo-Nazis

Members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party stand around a stage during a gathering in Athens. Photograph: YORGOS KARAHALIS/© YORGOS KARAHALIS/Reuters/Corbis
"I'm the embodiment of every fascist's fantasy. I'm a Jew, a communist – and a heretical communist, a Trotskyist, at that. I don't fit anywhere. The only thing I happen not to be is homosexual."
My old friend Savvas Michael-Matsas – activist, internationally respected writer on philosophy and literature, general secretary of the Greek Revolutionary Workers' party (EEK), utopian thinker, fiery speaker and wild white-haired survivor of 17 courses of chemotherapy ("No compromise with death") – is on trial in Athens on Tuesday, 3 September, for "libelous defamation," "incitement to violence and civil discord", and "disturbing the public peace".
The suit against him has been brought by members and supporters of the neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn; the background is a call to an anti-fascist protest issued by EEK in May 2009, which ended with the slogan: "The people don't forget, they hang fascists" (it's catchier in Greek). As Anny Paparousou, Savvas's lawyer, explained to me, this is effectively a prosecution of political speech – the first prosecution of an anti-fascist slogan in Europe. It's as if the National Front had sued the SWP for shouting "Smash fascism" – and been taken seriously. But with 18 seats in parliament, 13% in the polls and muscle-bound thugs on the streets, Golden Dawn makes the old NF look harmless and almost sweet.
Though Golden Dawn's suit was filed against a long list of individuals and organisations, only Savvas and Constantinos Moutzouris, former chancellor of the National Technical University of Athens, have so far been called to trial. Moutzouris's alleged offence is that he allowed the radical website Athens Indymedia to use the university's server; his prosecution may be seen as part of the government's campaign to shut down the "alternative space" in which leftists, anarchists and anti-austerity activists have thrived for many years. Savvas's trial fits that category, too: EEK is a meeting place for Marxist and anarchist currents, advocating, in Savvas's words, "not exit from the euro, which is a Talmudic discussion, but exit from the system". There's also a darker side: it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Savvas has been selected not only as a radical but as a Jew.
The progress of the trial thus far raises questions about whether, and if so to what extent, the authorities are colluding with the neo-Nazis. Several of Golden Dawn's members have serious charges pending but never seem to see the inside of a courtroom. Themis Skordeli, a signatory to this suit, was charged with stabbing an Afghan man in September 2011; her trial has been postponed eight times. The MP Ilias Panagiotaros, another of the complainants, owns a shop called Phalanga that sells street-fighting paraphernalia; he told the BBC last year that Greece is heading for civil war.
But picking out the Jew to be the first to walk the plank is sleazy beyond belief, a cheap sop to the fascist gallery. As one of the few Jewish public intellectuals in Greece, Savvas has long been targeted by neo-Nazi websites, with slogans like "Crush the Jewish worm" and claims that he can be found lurking under every stone, fomenting civil war among pure-blooded Greeks in order to establish a Judeo-Bolshevik state. He has also been accused of being both an agent of Iran and a fully paid-up member of the international Zionist conspiracy (in fact he's a fierce anti-Zionist), as well as having long hair (he does, despite the chemo and the rabbinical hat he bought in case he lost his locks).
The absurdity of all this doesn't make it less dangerous. "There is nothing reassuring about the repetition of a historical tragedy as farce," writes Savvas in his recent book, The Horror of a Parody: Three Talks About Golden Dawn. Article 192 of the Greek penal code, under which Savvas is charged, has been used twice against minority groups in the last 25 years; both times there were convictions. The rise of the far right in crisis-ridden Greece has both fed on and fuelled a blood-and-belonging nationalism and hatred of the other for which antisemitism is the original historical pattern. "Kill the Jew you carry inside you and is your negative self, incapable of giving your life meaning through a higher ideal," counselled Golden Dawn's first declaration of ideological principles. "Then, fight the Jew around you."
The Greek government has made common cause with these people in its desperate effort to drive home the neoliberal agenda of its creditors and protect Greece's own corrupt elites. The admittedly violent rhetoric of parts of the Greek left is equated with the widespread physical violence of the extreme right, which is cosseted and supported in its crusade against immigrants, leftists, homosexuals, misfits of all kinds. There is to be no room in the new order for anything counter, original, spare, strange.
I first met Savvas years ago at a conference celebrating the centenary of the Greek surrealist poet and visionary Andreas Embeirikos. We spoke about the writer's relationship to the work of Herman Melville, especially Moby-Dick, and Savvas still puts me in mind of the white whale: a force of nature sounding to great depths, bent on a single quixotic quest, not for revenge but for liberation – no less vital for being always out of reach. The black-shirted skinheads of Golden Dawn, driven by fear and hate, are the Ahabs of this world. They must not be allowed to win.

From Agence France-Presse:

Greek judge throws out neo-Nazi party's anti-racism suit

A judge in Greece threw out Wednesday a pivotal anti-racism case brought by neo-Nazi party the Golden Dawn against individuals it accused of inciting violence against it.

The party filed the lawsuit against multiple leftist groups including prominent far-left intellectual Savvas Michail whom it accused of calling on the public to protest against "criminal organisation" the Golden Dawn in 2009.

Conservative academic Konstantinos Moutzouris, a former rector of Athens' Polytechnic University who ran with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy party elections last year, was accused of allowing an anti-fascist website to broadcast from the university.

The subsequent suit signed by party members and at least one elected deputy accused the two of "inciting violence" against the Golden Dawn and "disrupting public order".

Michail, the only person actually prosecuted in a trial which opened Tuesday and lasted one day, hailed the dismissal of the case, which judges dropped in line with recommendations from prosecutors.

"This is a victory against the neo-Nazi threat that until now has wanted to impose its own law. All of their arguments collapsed," he said.

For the Greek left and human rights groups, the case has symbolised a landmark moment in the fight against the rise of the far-right party, which first entered parliament in 2012.

A number of leftists and rights activists protested at the trial opening on Tuesday but the Golden Dawn itself kept a low profile, with only three supporters who denied any political affiliation to the party turning up.

The case focused on Michail's 2009 proclamation which ended with the statement "People don't forget, they hang fascists", a cry frequently heard in anti-racism demonstrations in Greece.

Golden Dawn claimed this was a direct threat, while the defence insisted it was only a metaphor and a frequently-used call against fascism since the fall of the 1967-1974 military junta in Greece.

"This trial is a scandal in itself, it should never have taken place," said radical left party Syriza deputy Thodoris Dritsas, who was a witness for the defence.

"It is the first time since the fall of the junta that a person has stood trial for making anti-fascist statements," Michail told AFP.

"They want to create a legal precedent in order to outlaw the anti-fascist movement," he added.

Opponents of the Golden Dawn have viewed the case as ironic for a party known for its anti-Semitic and xenophobic discourse whose members have been implicated in violent assaults against immigrants.

"The Golden Dawn can implement their violent political programme unpunished... with incredible hatred... directly leading to violence," warned the Greek League of Human Rights before the trial.

"The Nazis publish my photograph and call on people to crush the "Jewish parasite," but nobody goes after them," said Michail, who is of Jewish descent.

Golden Dawn party leader Nikos Michaloliakos has publicly denied the Holocaust ever took place but has never been brought to justice for his statements.

Benefiting from a rise in social tensions in heavily indebted Greece, Golden Dawn was first elected to parliament last year, winning nearly seven percent of the vote and 18 seats out of an overall 300.


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