Riot police walk in front of a woman as leftists protesters (not pictured) march to the Greek courts in support of their colleagues who were arrested in the beginning of the week, in Athens January 12, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Tomorrow morning, September 3, in Athens, an Alice-in-Wonderland trial is scheduled to take place. The accused are Constantinos Moutzouris, former dean of the National Technical University, and Savvas Michael-Matsas, an internationally known intellectual and leader of the Trotskyist Greek Workers’ Revolutionary Party (EEK), who happens to be Jewish. The accusers (in Greece, individuals can bring criminal suits) are members and supporters of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. The alleged crimes are “libelous defamation,” “incitement to violence and civil discord” and “disturbing the public peace.”
The trial is in effect a prosecution of political speech—the first prosecution of anti-fascist speech in Europe. Moutzouris is charged with hosting the radical website Athens Indymedia on the university’s server, Savvas for an EEK call to an anti-fascist demonstration which ended with the slogan, “The people don’t forget, they hang fascists.” (It’s catchier in the original, and not unusual in its violence: like it or not, Greek political rhetoric on both left and right has never hesitated to go for the jugular.) The case is also a test of how far the Greek judiciary has been penetrated by the far right. Several Golden Dawn members have serious charges pending, including for assault, but their trials seem to be endlessly postponed; nor has the party ever been prosecuted for hate speech, though its publications and the speeches of its leaders can make your hair stand on end.
What’s more, the two men are the only ones so far called to trial from a long list named in the suit. Their prosecution probably has to do with the government’s campaign to shut down the alternative political space represented by Indymedia and the radical currents that find a home in EEK. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Savvas has also been singled out because he is a Jew—one of the very few Jewish public intellectuals in Greece. Anti-Semitism is at the root of Golden Dawn’s ideology. “Kill the Jew you carry inside you and is your negative self, incapable of giving your life meaning through a higher ideal,” counseled its Declaration of Ideological Principles at the end of the 1980s. “Then, fight the Jew around you.” Savvas’ selection is a sop to the neo-Nazis from the Greek judiciary—a wink to anti-Semites and racists everywhere.
Savvas is an old friend of mine; I’ve written about him and the case in more detail in today’s Guardian. Please take a look, spread the word and sign the petition for him at www.change.org. These people can’t be allowed to win.