Athens, Greece (CNN)The leaders of Greece's neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn were found guilty Wednesday of forming and running a criminal organization under the cloak of a political party, in a landmark decision hailed as a victory for democracy and human rights.
Leaders of Greece's neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn found guilty of running criminal organization
Following a marathon trial lasting five-and-a-half years, an Athens court deemed that crimes by Golden Dawn members including murder, attempted murder, assault and possession of weapons were not the actions of individuals operating on their own initiative. Instead they were directly planned and ordered by a party leadership that employed violence to eradicate perceived enemies.
Eighteen former party lawmakers, including leader Nikos Michaloliakos, a holocaust denier who founded Golden Dawn in the 1980s as a neo-Nazi organization, were among those found guilty on Wednesday. Individual sentences are to be announced in the coming days.
There was a strong police presence around the court on Wednesday as left-wing parties, trade unions, and anti-fascist and human rights groups staged rallies to coincide with the verdict.
Protesters and riot police then clashed after the ruling. Police said a peaceful crowd of at least 20,000 people dispersed, but minutes after the verdict was announced, a smaller group of around 600 people attacked officers with stones and Molotov cocktails.