Greek Golden Dawn protests
Greek Golden Dawn protestsFlash 90

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Wednesday welcomed a Greek court’s decision to convict the leadership of the country’s Golden Dawn national political party for heading up a criminal organization.

A Greek court ruled earlier that seven of the 18 former party lawmakers, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were guilty of leading a criminal organization. The rest were found guilty of participating in a criminal organization. In all, there were 68 defendants in a trial encompassing four cases.

The court also convicted a party member of murder, and 15 others of conspiracy in the case.

“The World Jewish Congress, in partnership with the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece, has consistently opposed Golden Dawn and called for its removal from the Greek political system by legal means,” the WJC said in a statement.

“Today’s decision sends a clear message that Greek society does not tolerate hate and division. We salute Greece’s past and current political leadership for taking the necessary measures to eradicate this abhorrent group’s platform for disseminating hate.”

“Extremist and neo-Nazi movements, and the rhetoric they espouse, are not only a danger to Jewish communities and other minority groups, they also constitute a severe threat to the basic fabric of our society through their constant challenges to the rule of law,” the statement said.

“This decision is not only historic for Greece, but for all those who support democratic values. The World Jewish Congress hopes that legislation and policies that promote education, respect and tolerance will be implemented around the world, so movements like Golden Dawn will never find fertile ground to grow,” concluded the statement.

Golden Dawn has become notorious for its blatant anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric, openly displaying copies of “Mein Kampf,” as well as other works on Greek racial superiority at party headquarters.

Michaloliakos has claimed that Nazi concentration camps did not use ovens and gas chambers to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.

In recent years, the party has been the subject of a crackdown by Greek authorities, with several of its leaders being arrested and tried.

Several years ago Greece ratcheted up its punishments for racism, anti-Semitism and hate speech, in a move prompted by the surprise rise of Golden Dawn.