Ultra-right ‘influential’ in Greek state, says study

Deep and systematic penetration of state institutions found

Greek cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos: told Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris the criminal charges he is facing were based on no evidence. Photograph: EPA/Simela Pantzartzi

Greek cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos: told Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris the criminal charges he is facing were based on no evidence. Photograph: EPA/Simela Pantzartzi

 


It was shocking in terms of its content as well as damning politically. Secretly recorded video footage, released last week, showed Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras’s most senior government official, cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos, chatting chummily with a leading Golden Dawn MP, Ilias Kasidiaris, who is facing criminal charges relating to his activities within the neo-nazi party, and telling him the ongoing judicial clampdown on his party was based on no evidence and was a politically orchestrated plan to win back votes that Mr Samaras’s New Democracy had lost to Golden Dawn.

Mr Baltakos, who was forced to resign, subsequently claimed he was telling Mr Kasidiaris what he wanted to hear in order to win his trust.

But Dimitris Christopoulos, a political scientist at Panteion University in Athens, expressed little surprise at Greece’s latest scandal. As he returned from Brussels, where the day before the video’s release he had presented the results of a two-year study into ultra-right intrusion into the Greek state apparatus, Mr Christopoulos said the Baltakos case “verifies what we are saying . . . And it’s not simply limited to isolated cases. There is something more dense, more systematic and deeper as far as the intrusion by informal, para-state, right-wing structures into the Greek state goes, to the point where they try to influence some key elements and domains of the state.”

He explains that the report tried to assess the penetration of far-right extremism within the Orthodox church, police, judiciary and army, and the extent to which it has carved out informal enclaves within them.


‘Dangerous’
The situation in all “four institutions is quite dangerous,” says Mr Christopoulos, who is vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights.

“In the church, you have priests saying incredible things that would be penalised even if we had mild anti-hate speech legislation in this country,” he says, before underlining that that the church, being decentralised, allows every “flower” to exist.

“So you have the full range: the good guys, who do sterling charity work with the victims of racist violence and migrants, and the bad buys, who are contaminating society with their extreme discourse,” he says.

For the military, he notes that while it has been “responsible for the biggest sins of Greek political history – the Greek 20th century being a history of coups and dictatorships – since 1974 it has been extremely cautious not to be held responsible for anything that might violate the idea of its institutional and state loyalty.”

Turning to the police, the study, like many others, finds it to be “the most infected and long-exposed institution to ultra-right intrusion”. But if the proper political signals were sent out from the top that racist behaviour by officers was unacceptable, reform along “liberal-democratic standards” could be achieved, he believes.


Judiciary
The most problematic case of all, the study finds, is the Greek judiciary, a deeply conservative institution accused in the report of “inexplicable inaction . . . towards severe nazi criminal violence until September 2013”, when the fatal stabbing of a prominent hip-hop artist and anti-fascist by a Golden Dawn supporter prompted the government to vow to dismantle the party. The party’s leader and five of its MPs were subsequently jailed on remand and are awaiting trial.

Referring to that crackdown, the report asks why, despite the clear evidence Golden Dawn was engaged in criminal activity for years, the supreme court only began a criminal investigation when it received instructions to do so from the public order minster, which Golden Dawn is now trying to use to present themselves as victims of a political witch-hunt.