Athens, Greece – Last October, the largest Nazi trial since Nuremberg concluded when Golden Dawn, the neo-fascist group that once held 18 seats in the Greek parliament, was convicted of forming and leading a criminal organization.
Party member Giorgos Roupakios was also convicted of the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, 34, an anti-racist activist and rapper, in 2013.
It was a day of jubilation in the country, as Golden Dawn was ultimately held responsible for its years of violent attacks on immigrants, left-wing activists and even lawyers representing its victims.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted that it was a “historic” day for Greece, democracy and the rule of law.
Three months later, the verdict is eclipsed.
Two important members of Golden Dawn are still at large.
Former party figurehead Ioannis Lagos remains a member of the European Parliament as Greek extradition requests are bogged down by bureaucracy in Brussels, which must lift his diplomatic immunity before he can be jailed in Greece.
Christos Pappas, widely recognized as Golden Dawn’s number two, went missing last October, hours before police came to his home to arrest him. It is not known where he is now.
Both men are believed to have contributed to the party’s reign of violence and intimidation against anyone who opposes their neo-Nazi ideology.
‘Offensive for Greek justice’
Kostas Skarmeas, who represented a group of Egyptian fishermen who were victims of an attempted murder by Golden Dawn, told Al Jazeera it was a “shame” that Lagos and Pappas were not yet behind bars.
“It is very offensive to Greek justice and to Greek courts,” he said, wondering why the Greek police had not been able to capture Pappas.
Skarmeas said it was imperative that Lagos’ immunity be lifted and called on European authorities to initiate proceedings immediately.
“We know that due to COVID measures parliamentary procedures are delayed, but this is still the first time that Parliament has had a convicted criminal among its seats,” he said.
“[It] must be a matter of priority, ”he added, pointing to recent events in Washington, DC as a signal that“ fascism ”is alive and well in the West.
Skarmeas said keeping the freedom of two high-ranking members an insult to the victims of Golden Dawn, dead and alive.
“It’s very offensive to the victims too, after five years [trial], now they see two of the most important leaders of this criminal organization enjoying their freedom, as if it had never happened.
The European Parliament’s press service informed Al Jazeera of the various steps before diplomatic immunity can be lifted and said the decision would now rest with the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, which was due to meet in January.
Greece’s civil protection minister previously said it was only a matter of time before the two were jailed.
“The fact that two senior party officials remain at large is a fly in the ointment of official success,” said Georgia Nakou, writer on Greek politics and current affairs.
“This is reminiscent of the lax attitude of the authorities who have left Golden Dawn unpunished for several years.
While Lagos and Pappas remain free men, Greek media reported this week that authorities have finally managed to track down another Golden Dawn fugitive, well-rooted in the party leadership.
Sotiris Develekos, wanted for attempted murder, was reportedly arrested this week in a seaside town just outside Athens.
Looking ahead, experts have warned that with convictions, arrests and imprisonment of far-right leaders, Golden Dawn still retains pockets of support in Greece.
A Twitter account affiliated with the organization, with over 3,000 followers, tweets regularly. The Golden Dawn website, still live, announced on Jan. 14 that 2021 will be “year zero” for Nationalists, which means a new beginning.