Leaders of Greece's neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn found guilty of running criminal organization

Riot police used water cannon during clashes with anti-fascist protesters after the Golden Dawn leadership was found guilty in Athens on Wednesday.

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.

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.
    Presiding judge Maria Lepenioti sits in the supreme court as she announces the verdict in the trial of suspected Golden Dawn members.
    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.
    Riot policemen try to avoid flames from a petrol bomb thrown by protesters on Wednesday.