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Greek neo-Nazis on trial for murdering Pakistani immigrant

Updated December 18, 2013

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Police officers escort one of the two suspected members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn accused of stabbing a 27-year-old Pakistani man to death in Athens on December 18, 2013. – AFP
Police officers escort one of the two suspected members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn accused of stabbing a 27-year-old Pakistani man to death in Athens on December 18, 2013. – AFP
Shehzad Luqman. – File Photo
Shehzad Luqman. – File Photo
The mother of Shehzad Luqman reacts as she leaves an Athens court where two suspected members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn accused of her son's murder are being judged on December 18, 2013. – AFP
The mother of Shehzad Luqman reacts as she leaves an Athens court where two suspected members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn accused of her son's murder are being judged on December 18, 2013. – AFP
A member of the extreme right Golden Dawn party holds a flag bearing their party's logo during an election campaign rally in Athens. - File Photo
A member of the extreme right Golden Dawn party holds a flag bearing their party's logo during an election campaign rally in Athens. - File Photo

ATHENS: Two suspected members of the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn went on trial on Wednesday accused of stabbing a 27-year-old Pakistani man to death.

Dionyssis Liakopoulos, 25, and Christos Steriopoulos, 29, risk a life sentence if found guilty of the drive-by killing of Shehzad Luqman in Athens in January.

They were arrested a few hours after the murder when a taxi driver who witnessed the attack reported their motorbike number plate to police.

According to the driver, the pair drove up behind the victim and assaulted him as he cycled in the Petralona neighbourhood near the Acropolis.

A search of Liakopoulos' home uncovered leaflets from Golden Dawn, according to Kostas Papadakis, one of the plaintiff's lawyers.

Banned weapons, knives and truncheons were also found at their homes.

Liakopoulos is suspected of stabbing Luqman in the chest, causing his death.

Steriopoulos, for his part, said in a written statement he was “saddened” by Luqman's “tragic death” and claims he only hit him in the leg.

Both accused deny being members of the neo-Nazi party and Steriopoulos has rejected “any ideological involvement in Golden Dawn” and allegedly condemns the party.

Both men say they got into an argument with the victim after he blocked their path with his bicycle.

But Petros Konstandinou, of an anti-fascist movement, rejected their statements, telling the press: “In cases like this, they always deny.”

“Today is International Migrants Day, I hope that the legal system will do its job and convict them,” as the case was only “the tip of the iceberg” of Golden Dawn wrong-doings.

Pakistani community representative Ashlam Tzavent claimed Golden Dawn was responsible for “six or seven murders” and “dozens of attacks” that have never been prosecuted.

Human rights and immigrant defence groups have called a rally for later on Wednesday outside the Athens courtroom, where the trial opened under a heavy police presence.

Hearings were suspended shortly after the trial opened to settle procedural matters, including allowing time for the victims' parents to arrive after their plane from Lahore was delayed.

They were expected to attend later hearings, with the trial due to last several weeks.

In the morning, about two dozen human rights and immigrant defence activists protested outside the courthouse. Steriopoulos's parents were verbally harassed during a break.

The case is coming to trial three months after the fatal stabbing of leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn supporter, which paved the way for a crackdown on the neo-Nazi party with six of its MPs charged with belonging to a criminal group.

Three of them, including the party's founder and leader Nikos Michaloliakos, have been remanded in custody.

Campaigners racism warned in a statement earlier this year that Fyssas' murder could have been prevented “if authorities had investigated (the party's) assault militias” earlier.

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic Golden Dawn has seen its popularity soar as it taps into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in debt-ridden Greece.

The discontent has made the party the third largest in voter intentions, trailing only the conservative New Democracy of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the radical left Syriza, the main opposition party.

Golden Dawn entered the 300-seat parliament for the first time after June 2012 elections with 18 deputies.