On Foreign Soil: The Search for Fallen Diggers

Source: mikesweet01

Loren Brown, the grand-daughter of Private John McGarrity, who was killed in April 1941 and whose remains have never been found. Photo: Meredith O'Shea

Loren Brown, the grand-daughter of Private John McGarrity, who was killed in April 1941 and whose remains have never been found. Photo: Meredith O’Shea

Taking cover behind a stone wall near a village in northern Greece on April 12, 1941, two Australian soldiers, Private John McGarrity and Lance Corporal Robert Brown, sheltered against a stone wall, after pelting across a frozen field in a hail of German heavy machine gun fire.

”I guess that was close,” McGarrity said, figuring they were safe, despite the enemy’s proximity. ”Let’s make the best of it and have a smoke.”

He rolled his cigarette, but never got to light it.”He gave a soft cry and collapsed to the ground,” Brown later told the Red Cross.

Almost immediately, Brown was hit too. As the two Diggers lay bleeding on the cold earth, a German officer appeared. Brown was told he was now a prisoner of war; medics would see to his mate.

”I had one last look at Private McGarrity,” he said in his Red Cross statement, ”but he was lying very still. I cannot say [if] he was dead or wounded – that was the last time I saw him.”

Brown’s testimony, from a German POW camp in 1943, is the only source of information about McGarrity’s fate: his body, like those of up to 20 other Australian soldiers killed during the same battle, was never recovered.

Now, with mixed emotions, McGarrity’s family, including his 75-year-old daughter, is preparing for the possible discovery of his remains in the grounds of a disused military compound near the tiny Greek village of Vevi.

Greece’s minister for Macedonia and Thrace (the region in which Vevi is located) has told Fairfax the Greek government is prepared to fund a dig at a site near where McGarrity and about 20 others are believed to have been buried anonymously in 1941.

If the dig proves its supporters correct, Vevi could resonate for Australians in the same way as the French town of Fromelles where, in 2009, researchers unearthed the remains of 250 Allied soldiers from World War I, including 124 Australians whose identities have been established by DNA tests.

Like the long campaign to unearth the Pheasant Wood site at Fromelles in northern France, the push to explore the fields around Vevi was initiated by amateur historians who have cross-referenced military documents with local knowledge and hearsay.

Keith Rossi, Victoria’s RSL historian for the past 26 years, is among those who believe an investigation of Vevi is well overdue. ”Look at Fromelles, when they had all that evidence – for years they didn’t do a bloody thing,” says the 91-year-old retired brigadier. ”Why doesn’t someone just go up and have a look?”

Rossi was in Vevi in 1991 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Greek campaign when he had an illuminating encounter. ”I was standing there at the wreath-laying ceremony and an elderly chap spoke to me,” Rossi says. ”We got talking about dead soldiers and the 2/8th Battalion, and this local said there were Australian soldiers from the war buried across the road – behind the wall.”

Rossi has talked about his encounter ever since, but it has taken nearly a quarter of a century for the conversation to grow into a concerted campaign to unravel the mystery, and to prove – one way or the other – if the rumours are true.

John McGarrity, the son of an Irish Catholic shipwright, was born in Newcastle, England, in 1905, and emigrated to Australia with an assisted passage in 1928, listed as a labourer.

He worked as a farmhand in Victoria and in manufacturing in Sunshine, where he was a member of the local running club. In 1937, aged 32, he married Norma Plumridge. Daughter Patricia was born in October the same year and Margaret in February 1939.

John McGarrity and wife Norma at Luna Park, Melbourne in 1939.

John McGarrity and wife Norma at Luna Park, Melbourne in 1939.

Within months of Margaret’s birth, Australia was at war with Germany. McGarrity enlisted and in April 1940, his 2/8th Infantry Battalion left Melbourne for the Middle East. Having suffered the heaviest casualties of any Australian unit during the first battle for Tobruk in January 1941, it embarked for Greece on March 31.

Twelve days later, McGarrity, a popular soldier ”full of wit and humour”, according to a fellow Digger quoted in his military record, would become one of the first of more than 600 Anzac troops killed in the doomed Greek campaign.

It was an operation that began in the snows of northern Greece, where Australian and New Zealand forces – supported by Greek and British units – took on the might of Hitler’s invading Panzer army, and the SS Leibstandarte, the elite and fanatical Nazi division originally formed as bodyguards for Hitler.

Facing the same troops that had torn through Poland, France and Belgium, the Commonwealth forces were handicapped from the start by inferior armaments, poor communications and virtually no air cover.

On April 12, 1941, the 2/8th Battalion was 16 kilometres south of the border with Yugoslavia, clinging precariously to the eastern side of the Monastir Gap, near Vevi.

For more than 24 hours it repulsed the enemy. The mission was to hold the German advance long enough to allow the withdrawal of Greek forces on the Yugoslav and Albanian borders.

That afternoon, a vital phone line connecting the 2/8th’s front line to Battalion HQ was cut. McGarrity and Lance Corporal Brown volunteered to make the repair.

As they made their way forward, the German attack intensified. The 2/8th’s front line began to disintegrate, overrun by German infantry and fast-moving Panzers.

About 4pm, exposed in open ground, McGarrity and Brown came under heavy machinegun fire. The stone wall they sheltered behind proved useless, with both men shot and Brown taken prisoner of war.

McGarrity was among 28 Australian troops killed at Vevi, many of whom, from the 2/8th and 2/1st Anti Tank Regiment, were never recovered.

He was reported as ”missing in action, presumed killed” and it would not be until 1944 that McGarrity’s wife, Norma, bringing up their two daughters in Kew, would receive confirmation from the army that her husband was dead. They could not tell her what happened to his body.

If Allied prisoners died of their wounds in enemy hands, German burial units would usually identify them from identity discs or paybooks and create written records, simplifying identification of a burial site and the individuals within it years later. No such documentation has ever been found for McGarrity and a number of other members of his battalion who fell at Vevi.

After Greece was liberated in 1944, the work of the Australian War Graves Commission – charged with finding burial sites – was hampered severely in northern Greece by the Greek Civil War. The remains of those who were found were reinterred at Phaleron War Cemetery in Athens. Some 2029 Commonwealth servicemen who died on the mainland in the Greek campaign are buried or commemorated at Phaleron; 596 of the burials are unidentified. Only one member of the 2/8th Battalion killed on April 12, 1941, has a known grave at Phaleron.

Maria Cameron is one of three amateur historians involved in research on the Vevi missing.

The Port Fairy researcher, whose other projects include identifying the remains of World War I Diggers at Fromelles, has cross-referenced Australian and German military records, and believes there is ample evidence to support the proposition that Vevi still holds the remains of Australians killed there.

”If the AWGC did recover bodies in the area after the war, the German records would have given the recovery units a clue. For McGarrity and others, there are no records of that kind at all,” Cameron says.

”The absence of information in the records on John McGarrity and others from the 2/8th show they’re the ones who were never recovered. ”It’s the same as Fromelles, we couldn’t say they were definitely there.”

Melbourne military historian Carl Johnson has also examined the records relating to Vevi, and says that McGarrity qualifies as a leading contender for a soldier who fell at Vevi and is likely to be still there.

”His files were held open to September 1945, which shows the total lack of information the military had about his final resting place,” says Johnson.”In addition to McGarrity I’d say there’s strong evidence for others being contenders for those never recovered from the 2/8th and 2/1st Anti Tank Regiment. There could be up to 20, from both units all told.”

A third researcher, Newcastle schoolteacher Tom Tsamouras, who has been working on identifying the site pointed out in 1991 by Rossi, is also confident about the location. ”What needs to happen is for the Australian government to help the Greek authorities investigate it,” he says.

A spokesperson for Unrecovered War Casualties – Army, the unit of the Australian Defence Force that investigates alleged burial locations of Australian soldiers, said while the department had ”no verifiable evidence”, it was looking into the matter. The Greek government has been more enthusiastic. ”The army have already drafted plans for a preliminary 15-day dig covering an area of two acres at the location, which is near a disused military compound,” says Tsamouras, who, through Greek contacts, brought the matter to the attention of Greece’s Minister for Macedonia and Thrace, Theodoros Karaoglou.

Karaoglou confirmed these details and says he believes the cost of an initial dig would be less than €30,000 ($41,000). He has vowed to authorise the expenditure personally.

Karaoglou says the dig will go ahead once the Greek army, on whose land the site sits, gives permission.Despite the likely imminence of the dig, there has been no communication between the Greek authorities and the Australian Defence Force, according to the UWCA spokesperson.

Nonetheless, members of McGarrity’s family believe the Australian government should get involved.

Daughter Margaret died last year, but Patricia still lives in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Pat’s daughter, Loren Brown, says she and her mother support the idea of an investigation taking place – whatever its findings.

”The possibility of an investigation has raised a mix of emotions in the family. Some believe we should leave history as it is, undisturbed. Others feel cautious optimism, to finally know the truth,” says Loren.

”It would be wonderful to give our grandfather a proper grave, titled and recognised. These men gave their young lives for their country. Surely it is Australia’s responsibility to find them and give them the recognition they deserve.”

Margaret’s son, Phillip Wittmer, agrees. ”It’s about honouring his memory,” he says. ”These men made the ultimate sacrifice. We owe them the honour of a proper burial, to dignify their lives, rather than leaving them. At the same time, I’m not getting my hopes up too much. What will be will be.”

Olympic flame handed over to Russia for Sochi Winter Olympics

Source: TheAustralian

Olympic flame Sochi

Actress Ino Menegaki plays a high priestess as she lights a torch with the Olympic flame at the Panathenaic stadium in Athens during the ceremony handing over the flame for the the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which begin on February 7. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

THE Olympic torch was formally handed over from Greece to organisers of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Saturday, just weeks before it will be carried into space.

In sunny weather at the Panathenaic Stadium that hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896, the torch was presented to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak by the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos.

Attending the handover ceremony was Greek President Karolos Papoulias.

“The Sochi Winter Olympics will not only become a part of Olympic history but will also make a sufficient contribution to the development of trust, friendship and respect of various cultures and countries,” Mr Kozak said addressing the spectators.

He thanked the Greek people “for maintaining the Olympic values” said it was “a great honour for me to represent Russia with pride and accept the flame.”

Mr Capralos said that the Olympic movement provides “a message of peace and solidarity among nations and that the Olympic flame is a symbol which unites all nations.”

“The Olympic flame is part of Greece and our heritage,” Mr Capralos added. “We are very proud of handing over the flame.”

Some 15,000 spectators attended the brief ceremony, which included a parade of Greek presidential guards dressed in traditional attire and a ritual dance by white-clad actresses dressed as ancient priestesses.

The Olympic flame was lit in Ancient Olympia last Sunday and embarked on a week-long journey through Greece ending at Panathenaic Stadium.

The torch was brought into the stadium by seven-times Greek figure skating champion Panagiotis Markouizos.

From Greece the flame will be flown on Sunday to Russia to be carried through all 83 Russian regions and visit 2900 towns and settlements before arriving in Sochi for the opening ceremony on February 7 ending a 65,000-kilometre journey.

About 14,000 torchbearers are expected to carry the torch.

The torch relay will make history when it is taken into space for the first time later this year.

It is due to travel to the International Space Station where it will then be taken on a spacewalk.

According to the Sochi organisers, the torch is due to arrive at the station on the Soyuz TMA-11M manned spaceship in November, and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryazansky and Oleg Kotov have been tasked with the historical assignment.

For safety reasons, the torch will not be lit during the spacewalk, the organisers said.

Following the mission, cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhim, who is currently based in the station, will deliver the special cargo safely back to earth.

The 62nd Annual Greek Festival in Portland (photos)

Source: oregonlive

Sunny weather brought out some big crowds to the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Saturday in Northeast Portland. The event, featuring authentic Greek food, dancing and music, continues on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, from noon to 8 p.m.

  

1 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Father Jordan Brown leads a tour and Q&A in the cathedral during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

 

2 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Religious artwork and stained glass adorns the cathedral at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral during the Greek Festival in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

3 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Vasiliki “Kiki” Farrier, a volunteer, helps arrange the candle station in the narthex of the church, during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

4 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Religious art featuring Jesus Christ almost seems to be giving approval to Vasiliki “Kiki” Farrier, a volunteer, as she helps arrange the candle station during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

5 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — The entrance to the cathedral soaks up the October sun during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

6 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Niko Andronikos (second from right) and Cindy Trumpower (far right) serve Greek salads during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

7 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Vasiliki Kordalis tosses the loukoumades, a fried-dough pastry soaked in a honey-sugar coating, during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

8 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Lamb roasts on a spit at the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

9 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Darin (left to right), Lilee, Zoee and Elizabeth Gering sample the Greek fare during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

10 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Mary Radtke helps a customer out with the huge array of Greek pastries, homemade by volunteers, during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

11 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Matt Lyons proudly shows off his newly purchased Greek fisherman hat with girlfriend, Alexandra Pandolfi, during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

12 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A big display of jewelry, including these necklaces, were for sale during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

13 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A couple of kids warm up the dance floor prior to a performance during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

14 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Karen Aase holds her eight-month-old granddaughter, Amelia Degheri, as they wait for the Greek folk dancing to start during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

15 of 25PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Thomas Spathas introduces Greek folk dance performers during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian 

16 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A Greek folk dance group of children, ages approximately nine to ten-years-old, performs. The group’s name is Arete, which means “excellence” or “reaching your potential.” The 62nd Annual Greek Festival was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

17 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A child with a Greek folk dance group adjusts her dress during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

18 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Authentic Greek costumes were used during the folk dancing at the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

19 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — Authentic Greek costumes were used during the folk dancing at the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

20 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A Greek folk dance group of children, ages approximately nine to ten-years-old, performs. The group’s name is Arete, which means “excellence” or “reaching your potential.” The 62nd Annual Greek Festival was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

21 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A Greek folk dance group of children, ages approximately nine to ten-years-old, performs. The group’s name is Arete, which means “excellence” or “reaching your potential.” The 62nd Annual Greek Festival was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian 

22 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A Greek folk dance group of children, ages approximately nine to ten-years-old, performs. The group’s name is Arete, which means “excellence” or “reaching your potential.” The 62nd Annual Greek Festival was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

23 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A young Greek folk dancer scoops up some dollar bills after a spectator (not pictured) threw some money on the dance floor during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

24 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — One young Greek folk dancer was a bit more quick to act than the others, after a spectator (not pictured) threw some money on the dance floor during the 62nd Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

25 of 25 PORTLAND, OREGON — October 5, 2013 — A Greek folk dance group of children, ages approximately nine to ten-years-old, performs. The group’s name is Arete, which means “excellence” or “reaching your potential.” The 62nd Annual Greek Festival was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday. Drew Vattiat/The Oregonian

INDEPENDENT senator Nick Xenophon demands Papuan trio explanation

Source: TheDailyTelegraph

The West Papuan activists snuck into the Australian consulate, Bali

Three West Papuan activists have been convinced to leave Australia’s consulate in Bali. Source: AAP

INDEPENDENT senator Nick Xenophon says West Papuan activists were “effectively threatened” to leave the Australian consulate in Bali ahead of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s arrival for the APEC summit.

Senator Xenophon is demanding an immediate explanation for the departure of the three men, after they scaled a wall into the mission early on Sunday morning.

He alerted AAP to the incident after being contacted by human rights groups.

It’s understood Australian officials persuaded the trio – Rofinus Yanggam, Markus Jerewon and Yuvensius Goo – to leave the consulate about 7am local time.

The three men were calling for international journalists to be allowed into the troubled Papuan provinces and for the release of at least 55 political prisoners from Indonesian jails, including Filep Karma, who has been jailed for 15 years in Abepura prison.

The security breach came ahead of Mr Abbott’s arrival for the APEC leaders’ summit on Sunday.

Senator Xenophon called on Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to provide a detailed timeline and explanation of what occurred.

“These three young men were not asking for West Papuan independence from Indonesia. All they were asking for is entirely consistent with the Lombok Treaty of 2006, signed by both Australia and Indonesia,” he said.

“Instead of getting sanctuary and help, the Australian government effectively threatened them and now there is serious concern over the activists’ safety.”

Senator Xenophon’s calls were backed by Professor Clinton Fernandes of the University of NSW, who has written extensively on West Papua and the Australian/Indonesian relationship.

He said when the media circus had moved on after APEC, the trio “may be tried, most certainly they will be beaten, and at some point might be disappeared”.

Mr Yanggam told the Guardian Australia he left the consulate in fear for his life after the consul-general, Brett Farmer, told them the Indonesian police and army would be called.

“They told us: ‘We don’t accept you to stay here. If you stay here for five minutes, I will call the Indonesian army to come and take you out’,” Mr Yanggam said.

“I know that if I am arrested then my life will be over. So better to get out now.”

In a letter addressed to the Australian people, the trio said they wanted Mr Abbott, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Secretary of State John Kerry to stand up for Papuan rights.

“We want these leaders to persuade the Indonesian government to treat Papuan people better,” the handwritten letter said.

Many of their colleagues had tried to have their voices heard but had ended up in prison, they said.

“These political prisoners committed no crime. They are explicitly committed to non-violence,” the letter said.

“The Indonesian government arrested and jailed them for discussing their political human rights beliefs.”

The trio ended the letter with a plea for help.

“We seek refuge and plead for our safety.”

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the trio had left the consulate “voluntarily” at 7am Bali time after delivering a protest letter.

Interim Labor leader Chris Bowen said he had full confidence that the consul-general and Australian officials were acting appropriately.

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos denies charges

Sourc: Ekathimerini

Michaloliakos says allegations against party politically motivated, decision on custody postponed

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos has told a magistrate that he is the victim of political prosecution, adding that he condemns all forms of violence.

During a marathon session at the Evelpidon court complex in Athens that went on until early Thursday, Michaloliakos denied charges that his Golden Dawn party, which has 18 lawmakers in the 300-strong House, is a criminal organization.

“I feel sorry for the murder of [Pavlos] Fyssas,” he said of the 34-year-old rapper that was stabbed to death by a Golden Dawn member last month. “I condemn [the murder], like I condemn violence in general. I am not a Nazi,” said the 56-year-old mathematician.

Michaloliakos said he had no knowledge if individual members of Golden Dawn had broken the law. The activity of the party, he said, has been within the contours of parliamentary politics.

A decision on whether to remand Michaloliakos in custody was postponed. Sources said it would be announced after a testimony by Giorgos Patelis, the head of the local chapter of Golden Dawn in Nikaia, southwest of Athens, close to the run-down district of Keratsini where Fyssas was stabbed. Patelis’s testimony was still ongoing at 3.20 a.m. Thursday.

Three senior Golden Dawn lawmakers were freed on Wednesday pending trial – a surprise decision that raised questions about the solidity of the state’s case against the ultranationalist party.

Party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and fellow lawmakers Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos stormed out of the court to cheers of “bravo” from supporters. They kicked and shoved journalists out of the way before hailing a taxi.

A fourth MP, Yiannis Lagos, was remanded in custody after a prosecutor and magistrate agreed that he was both a flight risk and likely to reoffend. It remained unclear why judicial officials believed that the same did not apply to Michos or to Kasidiaris, who faces a separate trial for assaulting two female MPs on live television last year.

Golden Dawn’s second-in-command according to prosecutors, Christos Pappas, is scheduled to appear before a magistrate at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Meanwhile, late on Wednesday police announced the arrest of Golden Dawn candidate Themis Skordeli. Reports said police found 145,000 euros in her apartment.

Michaloliakos: Golden Dawn leader in sights of Greek justice

Source: Ekathimerini

Nikos Michaloliakos, the leader of Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, is a disciple of a former Greek military dictator, who led his fringe group all the way to parliament.

Just over a year after it took Greek politics by storm to elect 18 MPs for the first time in its history, Golden Dawn has been labelled a “criminal organisation” by judicial authorities.

Michaloliakos, a 56-year-old mathematician, will appear in court Wednesday to be charged with belonging to a criminal organisation.

He has already been jailed on two occasions in the late 1970s for assaulting journalists and participating in bomb attacks in Athens.

While in prison, he befriended ex-dictator George Papadopoulos and was handpicked to lead the youths of far-right group EPEN after the fall of the Greek junta in 1974.

He then founded Golden Dawn, which he has run with an iron fist for the past three decades, making him one of the longest-serving party leaders in Greece.

The party follows a strict military-style regimen. Its members conduct parades dressed in black shirts and camouflage trousers, and are required to stand to attention before higher-ranking members.

Magistrates have linked the group to two homicides, three attempted homicides, robberies and an arson attack on a bank.

The evidence was drawn from prior police investigations, police wiretaps and the testimony of former members who have described how the group orchestrated attacks on migrants and Greek rivals.

According to the magistrates’ report, which was leaked to the media, Golden Dawn also held clandestine training in the use of assault weaponry for elite members.

Michaloliakos’ first elected post was as an Athens municipal councillor in 2010, where he attended sessions with bodyguards and was filmed taunting a left-wing opponent with fascist salutes.

At the time of its inception and for years thereafter, Golden Dawn glorified Adolf Hitler and the warrior ethos of Nazi Germany in its party publications.

One of the party’s older texts, read in parliament by a leftist MP in May, called Hitler a “visionary of new Europe”.

“Faith in the words of the Fuehrer, and faith in victory, grows in our hearts. The fight goes on, the future is ours,” the Golden Dawn text read.

This rhetoric was later toned down as the party adjusted its message to better suit Greek voter concerns with austerity and illegal immigration.

Even so, in a May 2012 interview Michaloliakos effectively denied the Holocaust, telling Greece’s Mega channel: “There were no crematoria, it’s a lie. Or gas chambers.”

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, Golden Dawn went from 19,000 votes a few years ago to over 426,000 in June 2012 after pledging to “scour the country” clean of illegal immigrants.

Michaloliakos later said the party’s voters were “the equivalent of 30-40 army divisions.”

The party has further boosted its ratings over the past year by organising food handouts for impoverished Greeks, and until recently polled more than 10 percent of the vote, making it the third most popular party in the country.

Now denying any neo-Nazi affiliation, Golden Dawn has mercilessly attacked mainstream parties as “traitors” and “thieves”, tapping into widespread anger towards the conservative and socialist governments that brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy in 2010.

Ολοκληρώθηκε η απολογία Μιχαλολιάκου

Έξι ώρες διήρκεσε η απολογία του γενικού γραμματέα της Χρυσής Αυγής, Νίκου Μιχαλολιάκου. Ο κ. Μιχαλολιάκος οδηγήθηκε στην Ευελπίδων λίγο μετά τις 19:30, ενώ η απολογία του ολοκληρώθηκε λίγα λεπτά πριν το ρολόι δείξει 2 τα ξημερώματα. Μαζί με τον κ. Μιχαλολιάκο μεταφέρθηκαν στην Ευελπίδων άλλοι πέντε από τους συλληφθέντες, ανάμεσά τους και ο «πυρηνάρχης» της Χρυσής Αυγής στη Νίκαια, Γιώργος Πατέλης, ο οποίος απολογείται αυτή την ώρα και όπως όλα δείχνουν, η απόφαση θα εξαρτηθεί από τον ίδιο.

Η απόφαση ανακριτών και εισαγγελέων θα ανακοινωθεί μετά την απολογία του Γ. Πατέλη προκειμένου να διασταυρωθούν κάποια στοιχεία που αφορούν στους κατόχους των κινητών τηλεφώνων για την νύχτα της δολοφονίας του Π. Φύσσα.

Σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες του Lay-out, ο κ. Μιχαλολιάκος φέρεται να υποστήριξε ότι η δίωξή του είναι καθαρά πολιτική και ότι λυπάται για τη δολοφονία του Παύλου Φύσσα. Ακόμα, υποστήριξε πως δεν είναι ναζιστής, ενώ καταδίκασε τη βία.

Έξω από τα δικαστήρια βρίσκονταν περίπου 200 οπαδοί της Χρυσής Αυγής, φωνάζοντας το:«Αίμα, τιμή, Χρυσή Αυγή».