Ilias Panagiotaros was a member of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, who formerly served in the Greek parliament. In September 2013, Greek authorities arrested Panagiotaros and other Golden Dawn leaders in connection to the murder of an anti-fascist singer.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?_r=0&pagewanted=print. On October 7, 2020, Pappas, 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.
Panagiotaros appears to support many of his party’s neo-Nazi, racist, and homophobic views, describing Hitler at one stage as a “great personality, like Stalin.”Helena Smith, “Greek Prosecutor Orders All Golden Dawn MPs to Face Criminal Trial,” Guardian, October 16, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/16/greece-golden-dawn-mps-tried-criminal-offences. According to media sources, Panagiotaros also owns a shop which sells camouflage gear, police riot gloves, face masks, and T-shirts extolling football hooliganism.Paul Mason, “Alarm at Greek Police 'collusion' with Far-right Golden Dawn,” BBC News, October 17, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-19976841.
Panagiotaros was arrested and briefly held on June 2, 2012, for allegedly stabbing a Pakistani man in Athens, but upon investigation, two other Golden Dawn members were responsible for the attack.“2 Greek neo-Nazis get life for killing Pakistani,” Times of Israel, April 15, 2014, https://www.timesofisrael.com/2-greek-neo-nazis-get-life-for-killing-pakistani/. Panagiotaros also reportedly led an October 2012 demonstration that interrupted the performance of the Terence McNally play, Corpus Christi, where he was recorded shouting racist and homophobic insults at the director of the play as well as the actors.Mason, Paul. “Alarm at Greek Police 'collusion' with Far-right Golden Dawn,” BBC News, October 17, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-19976841.
On September 28, 2013, Greek authorities arrested Panagiotaros and other members of Golden Dawn on charges of being a member of a criminal organization. They were also investigated for manslaughter, assault, extortion, bombings, and money laundering.Liz Alderman, “Greece Arrests Senior Members of Far-Right Party,” New York Times, September 28, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/world/europe/greece-cracks-down-on-golden-dawn-with-arrests.html. Panagiotaros was conditionally freed pending trial on October 2, 2013, and was ordered to not leave the country.Yorgos Karahalis, “Greece's Golden Dawn lawmakers unexpectedly freed before trial,” Reuters, October 2, 2013, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-greece-goldendawn-free/greeces-golden-dawn-lawmakers-unexpectedly-freed-before-trial-idUKBRE99108420131002; Nektaria Stamouli, “Greek Parliament Votes to Lift Immunity of Golden Dawn Deputies,” Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/greek-parliament-votes-to-lift-immunity-of-golden-dawn-deputies-1381928171.
In October 2014, a Greek prosecutor ordered Golden Dawn members to face a criminal trial.Helena Smith, “Greek Prosecutor Orders All Golden Dawn MPs to Face Criminal Trial,” Guardian, October 16, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/16/greece-golden-dawn-mps-tried-criminal-offences. The order stated that over 50 leading Golden Dawn members 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 offences, homicide, as well as attacks on immigrants, left-wing activities, and gay people.Helena Smith, “Greek prosecutor orders all Golden Dawn MPs to face criminal trial,” Guardian, October 16, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/16/greece-golden-dawn-mps-tried-criminal-offences.
Given widespread negative media coverage surrounding Golden Dawn’s trial, the party saw a decline in public support, and 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.
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 Panagiotaros, 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; “Greece Golden Dawn: Neo-Nazi leaders guilty of running crime gang,” BBC News, October 7, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54433396; 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, Panagiotaros was sentenced to 13 years in prison alongside other members of Golden Dawn.Tasos Kokkinidis, “Criminal Organization Golden Dawn is Behind Bars For Good,” Greek Reporter, October 14, 2020, https://greece.greekreporter.com/2020/10/14/criminal-organization-golden-dawn-is-behind-bars-for-good/.