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Greek prosecutor urges acquittal of neo-Nazis in murder trial

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Athens (AFP)

A Greek prosecutor sparked outrage in court Wednesday by calling for the acquittal of senior members of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, during a long-running murder trial.

Prosecutor Adamantia Economou told the court it could not be established that Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos or over a dozen other senior party figures had ordered the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013.

The victim's mother reacted angrily when Economou said Fyssas's fatal stabbing by an alleged Golden Dawn member, Yiorgos Roupakias, had not been premeditated.

"After all this time, is this all they understood," asked Magda Fyssas, referring to the near-five-year trial.

"How much more of this can we take?"

Fyssas' murder outside a cafe in an alleged ambush by Golden Dawn supporters shocked Greece and opened the way to an unprecedented investigation into the group's operations.

But the prosecutor questioned why a premeditated murder would take place in such a public place.

- Persecution claims -

"What possible gain was there in this? A murder in a central location? If Fyssas had been a target, they could have killed him somewhere out of the way," she argued.

Michaloliakos is one of nearly 70 defendants who each face between five to 20 years in prison over the 2013 killing and other alleged crimes by Golden Dawn members.

The main charge against them is participation in a criminal organisation, but there have also been a host of other indictments related to murder and assault.

Michaloliakos, a Holocaust denier and protege of Greece's late dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, has consistently maintained his innocence.

He says the party was persecuted by the government for its popularity during the Greek economic crisis.

Another prominent defendant, member of the European Parliament Yiannis Lagos, who has since distanced himself from Golden Dawn, has accused the authorities of fabricating evidence.

Magistrates have argued that the attack was carried out with the knowledge of senior party members, citing as evidence records of phone conversations between Golden Dawn members the night Fyssas was murdered.

They say it was part of a broader pattern of violence organised by the party against migrants and political opponents -- including beatings of Egyptian fishermen in 2012 and communist trade unionists in 2013.

Magistrates have also argued that the party was run in quasi-military fashion by Michaloliakos and little happened without his permission -- a claim he denies.

At the height of its popularity in 2015, Golden Dawn was Greece's third-strongest party, winning more than 370,000 votes.

But its fortunes collapsed in July's general election. For the first time in seven years, it failed to win a parliamentary seat.

Michaloliakos and other defendants have also denied Nazi links, insisting they are Greek nationalists.

But after a wave of arrests in 2013, a search of party members' homes uncovered firearms and other weapons, as well as Nazi and fascist memorabilia.

Much of that came from the home of deputy leader Christos Pappas -- another of the defendants in the case -- where police found swastika flags, two German army helmets and bottles stamped with images of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

A verdict is expected early in 2020.

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