Nikolaos Michaloliakos is the founder and former leader of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. He appears to openly advocate anti-Semitic, racist, and neo-Nazi views as well as a fundamental general contempt for liberal democracy. Long confined to the fringes of Greek politics, Michaloliakos was able to exploit popular resentment of the government’s austerity measures to broaden Golden Dawn’s appeal and position the party as the third strongest force in Greek politics. Following the local and European election in May 2014. Helen Smith, “SS songs and antisemitism: the week Golden Dawn turned openly Nazi," Guardian, June 7, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/07/greece-golden-dawn-fascism-threat-to-democracy. On October 7, 2020, Michaloliakos, 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.
Michaloliakos appears to have embraced neo-Nazi and racist ideas from an early age. At 16, he allegedly joined the party of Konstantinos Plevris, which reportedly supported the military junta in Greece in 1967 and is said to hold ultra-nationalist and homophobic views. Andy Dabilis, “Profile Of A Greek Extremist: Nikolaos Michaloliakos,” Greek Reporter, September 28, 2013, http://greece.greekreporter.com/2013/09/28/profile-of-an-greek-extremist-nikolaos-michaloliakos/. In 1979, Michaloliakos was convicted for “carrying illegal weapons and explosives as a member of a far-right group,” spending a short time in prison where he reportedly met members of the Greek military junta, including former leader Georgios Papadopoulos. Yiannis Baboulias, “Who is Nikolaos Michaloliakos?“, London Review of Books, October 3, 2013, http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/10/03/yiannis-baboulias/who-is-nikolaos-michaloliakos/. Following his release from prison, Michaloliakos began to publish the fascist publication Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi). The cover of one of the first issues carried a picture of Adolf Hitler.Yiannis Baboulias, “Who is Nikolaos Michaloliakos?,“ London Review of Books, October 3, 2013, http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/10/03/yiannis-baboulias/who-is-nikolaos-michaloliakos/. Michaloliakos founded the Golden Dawn party in 1985.
After years in political obscurity, Golden Dawn emerged as a political force during the 2012 Greek general election, where the party received 6.9 percent of the votes, translating into 18 seats. Since then, the party has gained recognition and notoriety due to its anti-Semitic and racist views, numerous violent attacks on immigrants and leftists, as well as hostility to the democratic process.Yiannis Baboulias, “Who is Nikolaos Michaloliakos?,“ London Review of Books, October 3, 2013, http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/10/03/yiannis-baboulias/who-is-nikolaos-michaloliakos/.
Following the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013, Greek prosecutors attempted to prove Michaloliakos’s control over the activities—and criminal character—of Golden Dawn. 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. On September 28, 2013, Greek authorities arrested Michaloliakos 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. Due to the group’s strict hierarchical structure, Yiannis Baboulias, “Who is Nikolaos Michaloliakos?,“ London Review of Books, October 3, 2013, http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/10/03/yiannis-baboulias/who-is-nikolaos-michaloliakos/. Michaloliakos appeared to serve as the mastermind of Golden Dawn’s activities.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. When police raided Michaloliakos’s house in 2013, they found a portrait of Hitler, three unlicensed guns, and €40,000 in cash.Yiannis Baboulias, “Who is Nikolaos Michaloliakos?,“ London Review of Books, October 3, 2013, http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/10/03/yiannis-baboulias/who-is-nikolaos-michaloliakos/. Michaloliakos was placed in pre-trial custody on October 3, 2013, and on March 20, 2015, he was released from jail as Greek law allows for a maximum pre-trial detention period of 18 months.Omaira Gill, “Greece’s Golden Dawn trial going nowhere fast,” Deutsche Welle, April 20, 2016, https://www.dw.com/en/greeces-golden-dawn-trial-going-nowhere-fast/a-19197580; “Leader of Greek far-right Golden Dawn freed from jail before trial,” Reuters, March 20, 2015, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-goldendawn/leader-of-greek-far-right-golden-dawn-freed-from-jail-before-trial-idUSKBN0MG1LD20150320.
Although once the third-most popular political party, public support for Golden Dawn steadily decreased following reports of the party’s ties to crime and the murder of rapper Fyssas.“Leader of Golden Dawn Jailed on Charges of Running Criminal Organization,” Voice of America, October 3, 2013, https://www.voanews.com/europe/leader-golden-dawn-jailed-charges-running-criminal-organization. Following national elections in July 2019, the party failed to secure the 3 percent threshold gain a single seat in Greece’s parliament.Renee Maltezou, “Golden Dawn Loses Its Luster as Greeks Reject Militant Far-right,” Reuters, July 08, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-election-golden-dawn/golden-dawn-loses-its-luster-as-greeks-reject-militant-far-right-idUSKCN1U31ND.
Michaloliakos first testified in court on November 6, 2019. He denied charges of running a criminal organization and claimed the accusations were a political tactic to denigrate and dismantle Golden Dawn.“Michaloliakos takes the stand in Golden Dawn trial,” Ekathimerini, November 6, 2011, https://www.ekathimerini.com/246179/article/ekathimerini/news/michaloliakos-takes-the-stand-in-golden-dawn-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 Michaloliakos, 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 Michaloliakos was sentenced to 13 years in prison, alongside five other Golden Dawn members.Niki Kitsantonis, “Court Sentences Leaders of Greece’s Golden Dawn to Prison,” New York Times, October 14, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/14/world/europe/greece-golden-dawn-sentencing.html. On October 23, he turned himself in to authorities to begin serving his sentence.Golden Dawn's Pappas on the Run as Colleagues Start Jail Terms,” BBC News, October 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54657540.