Breivik found sane, faces life imprisonment

THE Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has been found responsible for his crimes and faces life in prison.

THE Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has been found responsible for his crimes and faces life in prison.

A panel of five judges led by Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, who read the judgment, declared their verdict to be unanimous.

Breivik smiled briefly when he heard the verdict of guilt over terrorism offences and premeditated murder. Earlier he had made a straight-armed fascist salute in court.

The judges effectively found that Breivik was sane when he slaughtered 77 people last year and sentenced him to ”preventive detention”. This is different to a normal prison sentence, which carries a maximum of 21 years.

Breivik will be assessed after 21 years and his sentence could be extended if he is considered to still be a threat to society.

Consignment to a psychiatric ward would have no time limit.

Breivik, who had fought against a finding of insanity because he did not want to be dismissed as a madman, had said psychiatric care would be ”worse than death”.

Breivik was charged with terrorism offences after twin attacks on July 22 last year. He set off a 950-kilogram car bomb in central Oslo that killed eight people, then took a boat to Utoeya Island where he strode around dressed in police uniform and shot 69 people, most of them teenagers, who were attending a summer camp for the youth wing of Norway’s Labour Party. He injured 242 people.

Breivik, 33, claimed he was fighting the ”Islamicisation” of Norway and Europe and called on others to join his crusade against left-wing multiculturalists and the immigration of Muslims.

The question for the court had not been whether Breivik committed the atrocities – he admitted his actions – but whether he was mad or bad, which would determine whether he should be hospitalised or jailed.

Psychiatrists had been divided over his mental state. The first court-appointed panel found him to be a paranoid schizophrenic but a second, while diagnosing several disorders, declared he would not have been psychotic when he committed the attacks.

The prosecution had called for him to be sent to a psychiatric hospital. Breivik himself said he was sane and demanded jail, to enhance what he saw as his status as a national hero, a right-wing cultural warrior defending his people against invasion.

The victims’ families had wanted him to be found sane so he could be held responsible for what they saw as a political crime. Seventy per cent of Norwegians polled shared this view.

After the verdict a survivor, Eivind Rindal, told a Norwegian newspaper: ”The most important thing is that he never gets out. There are many who share his extreme views in our society.”

A bereaved relative said: ”Now he will be locked up for life and we can forget about him.”

The court’s decision means there will be no appeal. One of his lawyers, Geir Lippestad, had promised that his client would not contest a jail sentence.

The gunman is expected to live a regimented life at the high-security Ila prison near Oslo.

Breivik has spent his time in detention writing his memoirs, according to another of his lawyers, Tord Jordet. He plans to finish the book in the first half of next year and has received unconfirmed offers from publishers in southern Europe, Mr Jordet said.

The killings shone a spotlight on far-right extremism and tensions over multiculturalism in a country that had previously been noted for its peacefulness.

There is a growing consensus in Norway that the feeling of national unity, symbolised by the huge ”rose marches” in which hundreds of thousands marched in defiance during the aftermath of the attacks, has slowly ebbed away as the country becomes divided over the issues of rising immigration and cultural integration.

Thorbjoern Jagland, a former prime minister and the chairman of the Nobel peace prize committee, believes Norway learnt nothing from the tragedy: ”People at the political level have been more cautious regarding the debate around integration and Muslims, but if you look at what is going on at the grassroots level it has not changed.”

Kari Helene Partapuoli, of Oslo’s anti-racist centre, said the government had not started programs to improve cultural awareness.

First published in The Age.


The makeover of the wild man of Windsor has hit a bump in the road, writes Karen Kissane in London.

First prize must go to the British newspaper The Sun for the earthy brilliance of its headline about a naked Prince Harry covering his genitals with his hands: “Harry grabs the crown jewels.”
But the left-wing paper The Guardian wins the silver. Referring to the small red star that draws attention to the central point of the royal rear in another photograph, columnist Hadley Freeman muses that she is not sure “if the red star on the royal bare backside is a coy editorial choice … or that’s just how royal arses come”.
This week, everyone’s wild about Harry – except, perhaps, his nanna, who must have choked on her breakfast toast at the news that the third in line to the throne had been photographed in a Las Vegas hotel room playing naked with girls and that the pictures had swept right across the world via the internet.
Suddenly, the Queen has been sucked back into the kind of ghastly maelstrom last visited upon her when Fergie was photographed having her toes kissed beside a pool. Or, worse, the brouhaha when Charles was taped talking about how he longed to be his mistress’s tampon.
A suddenly circumspect Harry is lying low. His Dad has unleashed his hounds on the British press. Several reportedly paid tens of thousands of pounds to buy the images but Prince Charles’s lawyers, Harbottle and Lewis, sent a letter to Leveson-cowed newspapers via the Press Complaints Commission warning that under the editors’ code of practice, “It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent.”
That did not stop some British editors from publishing links to the celebrity-gossip site, which originally published the images, and yesterday the Sun splashed one of the pictures over its front page.
It is thought one of the girls had taken the images on a camera phone and later sold them for up to ¬£200,000 ($303,000). They show the birthday-suited prince getting up close and personal with a naked woman while playing a game of “strip billiards”.
Almost as entertaining are the legitimate photographs taken of Harry the next morning, after news of the pictures broke. He might be 27 but his facial expressions would be recognised by any parent of an errant teenager: sheepishness and dread.
Harry had pretty much recovered from his image-denting attendance at a party while wearing a swastika armband in 2005. On an official trip to the Caribbean earlier this year, he charmed leaders and paraded his blue suede shoes.
Harry’s makeover was said to be partly the work of a new team of spin doctors who are refashioning the monarchy’s image for a modern age. But Harry, bless him, will long remain the spin doctors’ greatest challenge.
Life and times
Prince Harry is an Apache helicopter pilot who has served in Afghanistan and is expected to return later this year.
At 12, walked behind the coffin at the funeral of his mother, Princess Diana.
Reportedly had engaged in underage drinking; has admitted smoking marijuana.
In 2005, was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party and later apologised.
In 2009, made a derogatory remark about a Pakistani soldier. Sent to army sensitivity training.First published in The Sydney Morning Herald.

MP’s defence of Assange triggers consensual sex row


As American politicians race to distance themselves from the notion of “legitimate rape”, a British MP has triggered his own furore by saying that having sex with a woman while she is asleep is not rape.
Controversial independent MP George Galloway has been attacked in all of Britain’s leading newspapers after he claimed a rape allegation in relation to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had no basis. “Not everybody has to be asked prior to each insertion,” he said.
Speaking of the allegations by two Swedish women of sexual misconduct by Mr Assange, Mr Galloway said: “Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were 100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape.
“At least, not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it. And somebody has to say this. Woman A met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him, claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know.”
Telegraph columnist Tom Chivers wrote in response to Mr Galloway: “She was unconscious at the time. It was literally impossible for her to consent. Having sex with someone once does not give them carte blanche to have sex with you again; the woman is entitled to change her mind between ‘insertions’ (Yuck, George. Yuck.)
“And what is more, she is entitled to expect the man to wait until she is sufficiently conscious to state whether or not she has changed her mind. That is what ‘consent’ involves. Giving it once is not a waiver of one’s right to refuse it in future.”
Sarah Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, told the Guardian Mr Galloway’s comments supported an enduring false notion of “real” or “serious” rape. “It can be just as devastating to be raped asleep by someone you know, as it is to be raped by a stranger,” she said.
Mr Galloway is no stranger to controversy. A former Labour MP, he was expelled from the party in 2003 as a result of his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. In 2004, he co-founded the left-wing coalition Respect, an acronym for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community and Trade Unionism, and returned to Parliament in 2005.
He made his controversial comments in his weekly video podcast, “Good night with George Galloway”. While he described Mr Assange’s alleged behaviour as “sordid”, he said: “I don’t believe either of these women.” He said while “it might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Do you mind if I do it again?’ – it might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette – but whatever else it is, it is not rape, or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.”
Mr Assange’s supporters believe the women were a “honey trap” after he angered US authorities with the publication of thousands of secret diplomatic cables. Mr Assange denies the women’s claims and has not been charged.First published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

End witch-hunt and let us go free, Assange tells US


WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has demanded that the US cease its attack on him and his colleagues, calling on the President, Barack Obama, to “renounce its witch-hunt” and “do the right thing”.
In a passionate speech late last night from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up since June 19, Mr Assange called on the US to immediately “dissolve its FBI investigation”, declaring: “As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does our freedom of expression.”
“The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters. The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.”
Mr Assange attacked the US for forcing Bradley Manning, the former US soldier accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, to “endure months in of tortuous detention”.
“He must be released,” he said.
In the 10-minute address, the flush-faced 41-year-old thanked the government of Ecuador for its offer of asylum and the governments of other South American nations for their support.
He apologised to his loved ones. “To my family and my children, who have been without their father, forgive me. We will be reunited soon,” he said.
Following a European arrest warrant issued for Assange in relation to allegations in Sweden of rape and sexual assault, and a failed appeal in Britain against extradition to Sweden, Mr Assange broke his bail conditions on June 19 to enter the embassy,requesting political asylum on the grounds that he was being persecuted. Britain declared that Mr Assange faced arrest should he step onto the embassy’s front steps.
Hundreds of supporters waited for hours in drizzling rain for the balcony address. Before Mr Assange appeared, the writer Tariq Ali and others read messages of support from film director Ken Loach, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Australian journalist John Pilger. His supporters were joined by scores of police, including a ring of officers surrounding the low balcony.
Earlier, his legal adviser, Baltasar Garzon, said Mr Assange had “instructed his lawyers to carry out legal action” protecting “the rights of WikiLeaks [and] Julian himself”.
Mr Garzon did not give specific details of the action but said it would extend to “all those currently being investigated”.
A spokesman for Wikileaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, told the media Mr Assange might give himself up to Sweden, if Sweden promised it would not extradite him to the US.
It is claimed he could face political persecution or even the death penalty if charged in the US over the publication of confidential diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks website.
It was revealed yesterday that the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, over-rode the advice of his own lawyers when Britain sent a letter to the Ecuadorean government in which the Foreign Office effectively warned it had the power to enter the embassy to arrest Mr Assange.First published in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Assange looks to international court


WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange will appeal to the International Court of Justice if Britain prevents him from going to Ecuador, according to a senior Spanish human rights lawyer.WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange will appeal to the International Court of Justice if Britain prevents him from going to Ecuador, according to a senior Spanish human rights lawyer.

Baltasar Garzon, who is working on Assange’s defence, told Spanish newspaper El Pais that Britain was legally required to allow Assange to leave once he had diplomatic asylum.

“What the United Kingdom must do is apply the diplomatic obligations of the refugee convention and let him leave, giving him safe conduct,” he said. “Otherwise, he will go to the International Court of Justice.”

Ecuador announced on Thursday that it was offering Assange asylum because it believed he would face persecution and a possible death penalty in the United States, where authorities are furious over the release of thousands of confidential diplomatic cables on his website.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for two months trying to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual offences claims by two women. He denies the allegations.

His supporters fear that if he went to Sweden, he could from there be extradited to the US.

Mr Garzon said the attempted extradition to Sweden was a ploy to allow the US to exact “political revenge” on Assange.

Mr Garzon, best known for trying to extradite former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet from London to Madrid on human rights charges in 1998, criticised Britain’s threat to arrest Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy, saying this was a threat of “invasion”.

The former judge, who was barred from the judiciary in Spain in February for exceeding his authority in probing a corruption case, held a long conversation with Assange, 41, on Wednesday evening, the paper said. “He was very confident that they would give him asylum, as they did,” Mr Garzon was quoted as saying. “He seemed very calm and in good spirits. He knows he is in the right.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told London’s Times newspaper that he had not expected Ecuador to make public a letter he had sent in which he warned he had the power to strip the embassy of its diplomatic status in order to allow police to enter. He later told reporters: “There is no threat here to storm an embassy.”

Assange’s quarters come with an air mattress laid on an office floor, and a window from which he can gaze in the direction of London’s distant airports, and the possibility they represent of a flight to Ecuador.

For now, that flight might as well be a million kilometres away, given the 20 or 30 Scotland Yard officers keeping a 24-hour watch outside the embassy. Friends who have visited Assange say he has a computer and a broadband connection, at least one mobile phone, and regular deliveries of takeaway food, carefully inspected by the police.

While the British laws governing consular premises do allow for the de-recognition of an embassy, any such move would also have to comply with international law.

Mr Hague said it was a matter of regret that Ecuador had decided to grant asylum and Britain would not permit Assange safe passage out of the country. He said the case could go on for a considerable time.

WikiLeaks said on Twitter that Assange would give a live statement “in front of the Ecuadorean embassy” tomorrow at 2pm, London time. It is not clear what “in front of the embassy” means. The embassy is an apartment inside a much larger building, and an announcement at the apartment’s front door would still be inside the building.

He could be seized if it is deemed he has stepped outside the embassy’s diplomatically protected area.

The lawyer for the two Swedish women, Claes Borgstrom, said Ecuador’s move was absurd and an abuse of asylum law, which was designed to protect people from persecution and torture if sent back to their country of origin.

“He doesn’t risk being handed over to the United States for torture or the death penalty. He should be brought to justice in Sweden,” Mr Borgstrom said.

The Union of South American Nations will meet tomorrow to discuss the situation at the embassy.

First published on

Girl’s body found at grandmother’s house


HER name and face have been on Britain’s television screens for a week as her family begged for help in finding missing schoolgirl Tia Sharp, 12.
Now the partner of the girl’s grandmother has been charged with killing her after her body was found in her grandmother’s house on a council estate in Croydon, south London.
Stuart Hazell, 37, was found hiding under a log on a common and will appear in court today.
Tia’s grandmother, Christine Sharp, 46, was also arrested on suspicion of murder and her neighbour, Paul Meehan, 39, was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender. They have both been released on bail.
Meanwhile, Scotland Yard, which apparently botched the investigation by failing to find Tia’s body sooner despite three searches of her grandmother’s house, has apologised to Tia’s mother for the delays.
A spokesman said the searches included one that was meant to have been a full one last Sunday week, and an inspection by a sniffer dog on Wednesday, and that they should have been more thorough.
“We have apologised to Tia’s mother that our procedures did not lead to the discovery of the body on this search,” the spokesman said. He added that there would be a review of processes “to ensure such a failing is not repeated”.
The body was not found until Friday, when police decided a more intensive fourth sweep of the house was necessary.
Police now want to establish how long the body had been there.
Hazell had said he was the last person to see Tia before she was reported missing on Friday, August 3, which led to a hunt involving nearly 100 officers, who scoured woodland near the house and examined 800 hours of CCTV footage.
Tia was in Hazell’s care when she went missing and he told police she had left the house to buy a pair of thongs and had little money and no transport card or mobile phone.
Hazell had previously dated Tia’s mother, Natalie Sharp, 30.
Before his arrest, he told a television interviewer: “Did I do anything to Tia? No I bloody didn’t. I’d never think of that. I loved her to bits, she’s like my own daughter. She’s got a lovely home. I can’t work out what’s going on.
“She’s a happy-go-lucky golden angel, she’s perfect . . . Just come home, babe, come and eat your dinner.”
Hazell said people were “pointing the finger” at him because he had been the last person to see her but that a neighbour told police he saw Tia leave the house alone and had even been able to describe “the pattern on her top”.
Her grandmother had earlier told reporters: “My only message to Tia is that I love her. She is my life.”First published in The Age.

Fragile UK coalition heading for showdown


BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron’s electoral reform plans are in tatters and his uncomfortable coalition with the Liberal Democrats further strained by his inability to persuade 91 of his Conservative MPs to back an elected House of Lords.
The failure also embarrasses Lib Dems leader and deputy PM Nick Clegg, who had promised his party would use its position in the coalition of uneasy bedfellows to win political reform.
Mr Clegg had wanted the Lords to become an elected house. With this goal now thwarted, he has announced that his MPs will vote against the Prime Minister’s goal of revising parliamentary boundaries to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600.
The redrawing was expected to result in the abolition of up to 40 Labour and Lib Dem seats, boosting Mr Cameron’s chances of re-election in 2015 by giving him up to another 20 seats.
Labour had fiercely fought the proposals because it feared they could give the Conservatives power for a generation.
Mr Clegg said the Conservatives had breached the coalition agreement by trying to “pick and choose” which parts to back. “My party has held to that contract even when it meant voting for things that we found difficult,” he said.
“But the Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken. Clearly I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like, while Liberal Democrat MPs are bound by the entire agreement. So I have told the Prime Minister that when . . . Parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election, I will be instructing my party to oppose them.”
Conservatives retorted that Mr Clegg was failing to stand by his own principles. Conservative MP Eleanor Laing said: “He said [boundary changes] will make politics fairer. Now he says, ‘no, we’re not going to do this because making politics fairer is now not a good idea’. It is rather inconsistent, to put it politely.”
Mr Clegg had earlier argued that the plans to equalise the size of electoral constituencies would correct “fundamental injustices in how people elect their MPs”.
Conservative Chancellor George Osborne said abandoning the push for electoral reform would free the government to “focus 110 per cent on the economy, which is what the public wants”.
It is the third major policy defeat for Lib Dems trying to justify their decision to enter the coalition, following the disastrous failure of a referendum on voting reform and the introduction of steep university fees.
But psephologist Lewis Baston said, “Some Liberal Democrat MPs will be breathing a secret sigh of relief. They have dodged a bullet. The Lib Dems suffer worst proportionately from the changes because their seats tend, on average, to have smaller majorities and to be surrounded by areas where the Lib Dems did not poll many votes in 2010.”First published in The Age.

Far right on rise in Europe

POLITICS: ‘As anti-Semitism was a unifying factor for far-right parties in the 1910s, ’20s and ’30s, Islamophobia has become the unifying factor [now]’


WHEN France’s far-right National Front was newly minted in the 1970s, the people who backed it were stereotyped as working-class roughs with shaved heads and ugly tempers, sometimes photographed at street demonstrations with their fists punching the air. That was then. This is now.
Thibault, 22, lives in Paris and has just graduated from university with a commerce degree. He has studied overseas and he and his sister Camille, 18, who is studying art history, speak fluent English. Their mother is a school teacher and their father a retired businessman.
On a mild summer evening, they mill on the pavement with a couple of dozen other young people waiting to join a meeting of the youth wing of the National Front, the nationalist party led by Marine Le Pen, daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. Jean-Marie once called the Nazi gas chambers “a detail of history”. Marine Le Pen has been accused of being Islamophobic.
Thibault has followed the party since 2002, when Jean-Marie caused a stunning upset by making it to the second round of the French presidential election.
“I couldn’t comprehend why there was so much hatred towards him and why he was being persecuted,” Thibault says. “I was aware that he had made homophobic and anti-Semitic comments and I’m happy now that such positions are no longer part of the Front National. It must be understood that he is obviously not the same age as Marine Le Pen and that he belongs to another generation . . . The party now truly reflects all of my opinions, whereas 10 years ago it would have troubled me.”
Thibault and Camille are part of the new face of the right in France, which has seen a surge of support among the young and those living in the provinces, many of whom are economic refugees fleeing the struggling banlieues (suburbs) that ring Paris.
The right is on the rise not just in France but across western Europe. There has been a similar spike in support in Greece where, at the June election, hardship and anti-immigrant feeling catapulted Golden Dawn — a more extreme right-wing party often described as neo-Nazi — into an unprecedented 18 seats in the Greek parliament.
Parties pushing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideas now have significant parliamentary blocs in eight countries, including Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands, where politician Geert Wilders has compared the Koran to Mein Kampf.
They feed unapologetically on growing resentment that foreigners are taking local jobs and welfare benefits. France’s anti-Muslim Bloc Identitaire serves a pork-based “identity soup” to homeless people; Greece’s Golden Dawn hands out food parcels only to people carrying Greek identity papers.
“As anti-Semitism was a unifying factor for far-right parties in the 1910s, ’20s and ’30s, Islamophobia has become the unifying factor [now],” says Thomas Klau, of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
British think tank Demos last year used Facebook to recruit more than 10,000 young supporters of 14 parties and organisations in 11 countries to answer questionnaires. The findings revealed a powerful swell in hardline nationalist sentiment in the young across the continent, particularly among men.
Demos used Facebook’s own advertising tool to extract data about 450,000 supporters of the organisations. Almost two-thirds were aged under 30, and three-quarters were male and more likely than average to be unemployed.
The resentment about outsiders is peculiarly spread. At this meeting of the youth wing of the National Front in Paris, several members are the children or grandchildren of migrants. Karime, 20, is a railway worker whose grandparents emigrated from North Africa. He, too, complains about migrants edging the French out of jobs and welfare but, for him, the main attraction to the party is Marine Le Pen; his face lights up as he talks about what a warm leader she is, and how she truly understands the problems facing the nation.
For Thibault, those problems can be summed up thus: “Past governments have failed to assimilate the incoming flux of immigrants and we are now faced with a tremendous challenge with the third generation of people from North Africa and Africa.
“They have no respect for France’s tradition and culture and seek to impose their own customs and values, which is intolerable. France is probably the most welcoming country in the world — free education and social security — but we cannot welcome all of the world’s misery. For that reason, we need to critically reduce the number of migrants.”
He has come to this view partly because of his mother’s experience teaching, he says: “She is also witnessing this change; numerous children with absent, unemployed fathers, violent and troubled. When you have 70 per cent of the class that isn’t French native and who don’t speak French, how are you supposed to pass on French culture and its heritage?”
He is also sceptical about the European Union and favours protectionism for French products. His sister, Camille, likes the Front’s zero tolerance approach to law and order issues. “There is an increasing sense of insecurity in the big cities,” she adds.
While they feel perfectly comfortable with their views, they are aware that not everyone regards the party in the same light. They chose not to use their surnames for this article in case potential employers should find them on the internet.
Le Pen ranked No. 1 of 10 candidates among young voters in the first presidential ballot earlier this year. She has softened the party’s stance in ways that appeal to a younger electorate.
French political analyst Nonna Meyer of Sciences Po says she has shifted the party away from her father’s image and rhetoric. “She’s younger, she’s a woman, she condemns anti-Semitism . . . She says she is tolerant, it is Islam that is intolerant . . . she up-ends the discourse,” Meyer says.
The opposite is the case with Golden Dawn in Greece, where the rhetoric is increasingly savage. Just before the Greek election in June, MP Ilias Panagiotaros promised that if his party were elected, “It will carry out raids on hospitals and kindergartens and it will throw immigrants and children out on the street so that Greeks can take their place.”
Kostis Papaioannou, former chairman of Greece’s National Commission for Human Rights, links Golden Dawn to rising racist violence. “This is not the rise of the extreme right,” he told The Saturday Age. “We have had the extreme right in parliament for a period; they are mainly ultra-conservatives, who pay attention to values like safety and tradition and illegal immigrants. That was as far as they went.
“But Golden Dawn — this is neo-Nazis. They openly use violence and hate speech, deny the Holocaust, and their internal structure is like an army.”
He says the party’s success at a first election in May was followed by a big rise in race attacks, such as one in Piraeus where 25 people entered a house in which Egyptian immigrants were sleeping: three managed to escape but one was badly beaten. “These people were arrested and they were members of this neo-Nazi party,” Papaioannou says.
In the last quarter of 2011, there were 70 such incidents in just two neighbourhoods of Athens. Groups attacked people who were walking or waiting for a bus, or unleashed dogs to terrify them.
“This is organised,” he says. “In many attacks there are juveniles taking part. Golden Dawn is doing very systematic work in recruiting teenagers in high schools in Athens.”
This is not an image of the party that is recognised by many of those who vote for it. Kostas Fasianis, 39, used to own a mini-market in the Athens suburbs before the economy went bad; now he is unemployed. Politically, he describes himself as a nationalist and a Golden Dawn voter. “The core of the party is people like me and you, the common people,” he says. “Its highest value is that we love our country and are patriotic.”
He wants Greece to guard its borders and deport illegal immigrants, who he believes bring diseases into the country and contribute to rising crime: “In Athens it’s become more violent and it’s uncontrollable. People nowadays, they could kill you for five euros.”
Fasianis says it is a lie to say that Golden Dawn activists have ever attacked leftists or immigrants: “There’s no truth at all to that, and it’s proved by the fact that no member of Golden Dawn was ever convicted in court,” he says.
Kostas Papadakis, 35, is the owner of an Athens mini-market and voted for Golden Dawn for the first time in June. He, too, wants a crackdown on illegal immigration, as well as a renegotiation of the sovereign debt repayment deal that is crippling the Greek economy.
“The country has changed dramatically since the first wave of immigrants,” he says. “It started with Albania, and now there are people from Africa and Afghanistan, and large parts of Athens have become ghettoes.”
For Papadakis, Golden Dawn is an alternative to the corruption of the conservatives and socialists whose economic mismanagement has brought the country to its knees. Of its more extreme elements, he says: “Yes, I also believe that there are members in Golden Dawn that act as neo-Nazis. Personally, I have nothing to do with that. I am not a neo-Nazi and not a strong supporter.
“I want Golden Dawn in the parliament to shake up the system. It’s so unjust that 10 million Greeks have to pay and suffer for the money that was embezzled by the 300 members of the Parliament.”
A World Economic Forum report on Global Risks 2012 warned that Europe’s financial crisis, with resulting 50 per cent unemployment in countries such as Spain and Greece, was sowing “the seeds of dystopia”.
Those seeds have begun to sprout.

First published in The Age.