Ilias Kasidiaris was a senior Golden Dawn member, who served in the Greek parliament, and a spokesperson for the party. He is also the nephew of former Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos.Gavin Haynes, “Illias Kasidiaris is the playboy of the Greek far-right,” Vice News, June 6, 2013, http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ilias-kasidiaris. Kasidiaris was elected to parliament in 2012, and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Athens in 2014.Associated Press, “Under police escort, Greek extreme right politician takes seat on Athens city council,” Fox News, August 29, 2014, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/08/29/under-police-escort-greek-extreme-right-politician-takes-seat-on-athens-city.html. On October 7, 2020, Kasidiaris, along with other senior members of Golden Dawn, were found guilty of running a criminal organization.Niki Kitsantonis and Iliana Magra, “Golden Dawn Found Guilty of Running Criminal Organization in Greece,” New York Times, October 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/07/world/europe/golden-dawn-guilty-verdict-greece.html.
Prior to joining Golden Dawn, Kasidiaris attended the Agricultural University of Athens studying chemistry and food technologies. At the same time he was involved in Michaloliakos’s youth movement.Gavin Haynes, “Ilias Kasidiaris Is the Playboy of the Greek Far-Right,” Vice, June 06, 2013, http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ilias-kasidiaris. After being elected to the Greek parliament in May 2012, Kasidiaris delivered his first speech, allegedly reading from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a text which has been described by Vice News as “an ancient fabricated smear text beloved by European anti-Semites since before Hitler.”Gavin Haynes, “Ilias Kasidiaris Is the Playboy of the Greek Far-Right,” Vice, June 06, 2013, http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ilias-kasidiaris; Becatoros, Elena. “Greek Extremist Party Member in TV Assault,” June 07, 2012, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-greek-extremist-party-member-in-tv-assault-2012jun07-story.html.
Kasidiaris operates a Twitter account on which he advocates the views of the Golden Dawn organization, which was last updated on October 5, 2020.Ηλίας Κασιδιάρης, Twitter post, May 2, 2017, 3:52 a.m. EST, https://twitter.com/IliasKasidiaris/status/859359903810506752. He is also said to have a Swastika tattooed on his arm and has shown support for fascism and the ideology of the Nazi regime in Germany. Gavin Haynes, “Ilias Kasidiaris Is the Playboy of the Greek Far-Right,” Vice, June 06, 2013, http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ilias-kasidiaris. According to Vice News, Kasidiaris is also the author of the book entitled Sector X, named after a group of Greek collaborators during World War II who searched for and subsequently executed partisans resisting the Nazi regime.Gavin Haynes, “Ilias Kasidiaris Is the Playboy of the Greek Far-Right,” Vice, June 06, 2013, http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ilias-kasidiaris.
Kasidiaris made headlines in 2012 when he physically assaulted two female politicians on a TV show because one of them had criticized Golden Dawn.Helen Smith, “Golden Dawn MP's live TV assault shocks Greece,” Guardian (London), June 7, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/07/golden-dawn-tv-assault-greece. During a seven-person panel discussion on a Greek morning television show , Kasidiaris assaulted Rena Dourou and Lianna Kanelli, of the KKE left-wing communist party.Helen Smith, “Golden Dawn MP's live TV assault shocks Greece,” Guardian (London), June 7, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/07/golden-dawn-tv-assault-greece. Kasidiaris threw a glass of water at Dourou when she claimed that Golden Dawn “would take the country back 500 years” if elected.Helen Smith, “Golden Dawn MP's live TV assault shocks Greece,” Guardian (London), June 7, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/07/golden-dawn-tv-assault-greece. Kasidiaris then hit Kanelli before being locked in a room by the television station employees to await police. Kasidiaris broke out of the room and fled, evading law enforcement until the 48-hour window for his arrest had passed.“Greek New Dawn’s Ilias Kasidiaris sues women over TV row,” BBC News, June 11, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18398603. Kasidiaris subsequently countersued both of the women, as well as Greek television station Antenna, claiming that the television station unlawfully held him and that he had acted against the women in self-defense, and asserting that “when you get hit in the face you have to defend yourself.”“Greek New Dawn’s Ilias Kasidiaris sues women over TV row,” BBC News, June 11, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18398603. On March 16, 2015, Kasidiaris was acquitted of charges brought up against him after the 2012 assault.“Kasidiaris cleared over live TV attack on Communist MP,” Ekathemerini, March 6, 2015, http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_06/03/2015_547964.
Kasidiaris faced trial in March 2013 for his alleged role in the 2007 assault of a student of Polytechniou Poli. According to authorities, an eyewitness identified the car used in the getaway as one belonging to Kasidiaris.Lynn Edwards, “Threatening atmosphere at Kasidiaris’ trial,” EnetEnglish, March 7, 2013, http://www.enetenglish.gr/?i=news.en.article&id=210. Kasidiaris was found not guilty on the grounds of reasonable doubt as to his participation.“Kasidiaris found innocent,” To Vima, March 7, 2013, http://www.tovima.gr/en/article/?aid=501765.
On September 28, 2013, Kasidiaris, Michaloliakos, and the entirety of the Golden Dawn parliamentary party were arrested under warrant for charges of leading a criminal organization.Nathalie Savaricas, “Sunrise arrests for Golden Dawn: Greek police detain Neo-Nazi MP Nikos Michaloliakos and 16 others,” Independent (London), September 28, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/sunrise-arrests-for-golden-dawn-greek-police-detain-neo-nazi-mp-nikos-michaloliakos-and-16-others-8846582.html. The arrests came after the death of left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed to death by a Golden Dawn supporter outside of a café on September 18, 2013.Liz Alderman, “Greece arrests senior members of far-right party,” New York Times, September 28, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/world/europe/greece-cracks-down-on-golden-dawn-with-arrests.html. The stabbing—taking place shortly after midnight—reportedly came after an altercation related to a football match being broadcast at the time.“ ‘Neo-Nazi’ held over Greek musician Pavlos Fyssas death,” BBC News, September 18, 2013, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-24141246. Kasidiaris was released on bail on October 2, 2013, on the condition that he would not leave the country.The Associated Press and Elena Becatoros, Derek Gatopoulos, Damien McElroy, “Greece accuses Golden Dawn leaders of running neo-Nazi pimp network before release pending trial,” National Post (Canada), October 2, 2013, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/greece-accuses-golden-dawn-leaders-of-running-neo-nazi-pimp-network-before-release-pending-trial.
On October 16, 2014, Kasidiaris was ordered to face criminal trial. The order stated that more than 50 leading Golden Dawn parliamentarians should be tried for using the far-right group as a political front to pursue various illegal activities. In the past, Golden Dawn members have been accused of weapons offenses, homicide, as well as attacks on immigrants, left-wing activities, and gay people.Helena Smith, “Golden Dawn MP's live TV assault shocks Greece,” Guardian (London), June 7, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/07/golden-dawn-tv-assault-greece.
In December 2014, the Greek Parliament decided to remove Kasidiaris’s political immunity so that he could be tried on charges of illegally recording conversation with former government general secretary Takis Baltakos, in connection with the criminal organization charges.“Prosecutor presses charges against Kasidiaris for Baltakos video,” To Vima, December 19, 2014, http://www.tovima.gr/en/article/?aid=660968. The other Golden Dawn members arrested in 2013 were released March 20, 2015, when the maximum time for detention expired, allowing them to return to parliament.“Greek Golden Dawn leader and MPs released from prison as time limit on pre-trial custody runs out,” Independent (London), March 20, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/greek-golden-dawn-leader-and-mps-released-from-prison-as-time-limit-on-pre-trial-custody-runs-out-10123437.html. The trial, which began on April 20, 2015, reached a verdict on October 7, 2020.Daniel Trilling, “Golden Dawn: the rise and fall of Greece’s neo-Nazis,” Guardian, March 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/mar/03/golden-dawn-the-rise-and-fall-of-greece-neo-nazi-trial.
The charges being held against all of the arrested Golden Dawn members include running a criminal organization, murder, extortion, possession of unlicensed weapons, and involvement in the disappearance of up to 100 immigrants. Kasidiaris also personally faces charges of forgery, counterfeiting, grievous bodily harm, trafficking, aggravated theft, embezzlement, and fraud in relation to the broader Golden Dawn trial.Omaira Gill, “The Golden Dawn Trial,” Wordpress.com, April 19, 2015, https://omairagill.com/2015/04/19/the-golden-dawn-trial/.
On May 15, 2017, Kasidiaris was ejected from Greek Parliament when presenting in front of a committee on economics.Will Horner, “Greek far-right MP ejected from parliament after fracas,” Politico Europe, May 15, 2017, http://www.politico.eu/article/greek-far-right-mp-ejected-from-parliament-fracas-golden-dawn/. Kasidiaris took offense when Nikos Dendias walked in front of him, assaulting Dendias by throwing water bottles at him before being ordered to leave.Will Horner, “Greek far-right MP ejected from parliament after fracas,” Politico Europe, May 15, 2017, http://www.politico.eu/article/greek-far-right-mp-ejected-from-parliament-fracas-golden-dawn/. Dendias is Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection, and as such oversaw Kasidiaris’s arrest as well as the arrests of Golden Dawn’s entire parliamentary group in connection with the 2013 murder of Fyssas.Will Horner, “Greek far-right MP ejected from parliament after fracas,” Politico Europe, May 15, 2017, http://www.politico.eu/article/greek-far-right-mp-ejected-from-parliament-fracas-golden-dawn/.
Kasidiaris also has a history of dealing in anti-Muslim rhetoric. In 2016, Kasidiaris spoke out strongly against Muslim immigration, expressing outrage at those who supported open borders in light of the unrest in the Middle East, accusing them of selling out Greece’s national sovereignty and allowing Greece to be made into an “Islamic state.”Christopher Menahan, “Greek Politician explodes on open borders leftists: ‘we fought for 400 years so the Islamists would leave!,’” Information Liberation, https://www.informationliberation.com/?id=54565.
On July 8, 2019, after seven years since joining Greece’s parliament, the Golden Dawn Party failed to acquire the three percent of national votes needed to secure seats in the 300-member legislature.“Neo-fascist Golden Dawn party crashes out of Greek parliament,” Al Jazeera, July 08, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/neo-fascist-golden-dawn-party-crashes-greek-parliament-190708060921804.html. The waning popularity of the party is supposedly due to several prominent members, including founder Nikolaos Michaloliakos, facing charges of operating a criminal organization as well as the party being linked to the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyassas in 2013.“Endgame in 'historic' 4-year Greek Neo-Nazi Party Trial,” France 24, April 19, 2019. https://www.france24.com/en/20190419-endgame-historic-4-year-greek-neo-nazi-party-trial.
On October 7, 2020, the Athens Appeals Court found Golden Dawn guilty of running a criminal organization. More than 68 defendants, including the entire group’s leadership, faced charges of operating a criminal organization while posing as a political group, attempted murder, possession of weapons, and employing violence to remove political rivals, migrants, and communists. The senior members of the organization, including Kasidiaris, faced sentences of five to 15 years in prison.Niki Kitsantonis and Iliana Magra, “Golden Dawn Found Guilty of Running Criminal Organization in Greece,” New York Times, October 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/07/world/europe/golden-dawn-guilty-verdict-greece.html; Tim Hume, “Greece’s Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party Have Been Ruled a Criminal Organisation,” Vice News, October 7, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en/article/n7wax7/greece-neo-nazi-golden-dawn-party-criminal-organisation; Angeliki Koutantou and Karolina Tagaris, “Leader of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn held in custody before trial,” Reuters, October 3, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/03/us-greece-goldendawn-leader-idUSBRE9920ZF20131003. On October 14, 2020, the court sentenced Kasidiaris to 13 ½ years in prison as a senior member of Golden Dawn’s inner circle.Helena Smith, “Neo-Nazi Leaders of Greece's Golden Dawn Sentenced to 13 Years,” Guardian, October 14, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/14/greece-golden-dawn-neo-nazi-prison-sentences.