A Greek court ruled Wednesday that the far-right Golden Dawn party was operating as a criminal organization, delivering landmark guilty verdicts following a politically charged five-year trial against dozens of defendants, the AP reports. Golden Dawn, founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s, rose to become Greece's third-largest party during the country's recent financial crisis and was seen as a model for many extreme-right groups worldwide. The court ruled 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.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the verdict "ends a traumatic cycle" in the country's public life. "After the Greek people voted the neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn out of Parliament in the last election, today the Greek justice system convicted its leadership of operating as a criminal organization," he tweeted after a televized address. As news of the guilty verdicts broke, cheers and celebrations erupted among at least 20,000 people at an anti-fascist rally outside the Athens courthouse. Some protesters threw gasoline bombs and stones at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. The marathon trial had been assessing four cases rolled into one: a fatal stabbing, two cases of physical attacks, and whether Golden Dawn was operating as a criminal organization.
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