From Panayote Dimitras for Greek Helsinki Monitor in Athens

On 6 March 2018, counter-terrorism police dismantled the nazi Combat 18 Hellas (C18). Police later used leaks rather than official briefings, stating that C18 was one and the same group as the Unaligned Maeandrist Nationalists (AME) and that they were accused of some 30 attacks on, mainly anarchist, squats between 2015 and early 2018.

They added that their investigation was triggered by a Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) complaint in November 2015 to the police unit assigned to combat racism violence detailing attacks carried out by AME/C18 and then uploaded in their website.

Yet, most of 40 attacks or threats that included desecration of Jewish monuments and were listed in the GHM complaint between 2011 and 2016 are not included in the 30 attacks in the police leaks, while a thorough review of the website shows that there has been at least a score of additional attacks, including the firebombing of two homes of Roma families in an Athens suburb in June 2017, the object of another GHM complaint.

Four of the alleged AME/C18 members were remanded on 10 March with an additional three granted conditional release. All are charged with running, joining and participating in a criminal organisation with the intent to commit crimes, arson, causing explosions and illegal possession of explosives.

A day earlier, four other alleged AME/C18 members also arrested but only for lesser offences, such as weapons possession and drug possession, were unconditionally released. The rare characteristic of the group was its clandestine nature and social media-based operation.

The leader, a filling station employee, lived in the city of Ioannina, near the border with Albania, while the remaining ten alleged members lived in Greater Athens and were reported not to know the real name and the face of the leader who was communicating with them via Facebook Messenger. One of those members, who was in charge of the website, along with the apparent main perpetrator of the attacks was filming them so as to upload the videos of their actions.

Another alleged member is a lawyer, reportedly in charge of the group’s PR and its contacts with other such groups. In his student years, he was a conservative New Democracy student member even though he had a demonstratively nazi ideology.

More recently, he has held leadership positions in the extreme right group New Right and then the Unified Front of Fellow Compatriots with Greek Ideology (E.M.E.I.S. which means “Us” in Greek) of the notorious Greek nazi Costas Plevris while, in between the two, he had also announced the launching of a Greek Alt-Right organization that failed to materialise.

More interesting is the fact that the alleged main perpetrator of the attacks was known, as late as in 2017, to be an active member of the Piraeus section of Golden Dawn (GD).

Neither he nor GD have ever announced that he had left or was expelled from GD. It is important to recall that the internationally most notorious GD crime, the killing of rapper and anti-fascist activist Pavlos Fyssas, was carried out in September 2013 by another Piraeus GD section.

A link with GD is also a characteristic of another nazi group called “Apella”  –  named after the assembly of citizens in ancient Sparta ­– dismantled by police on 11 January 2018. Again through leaks, police let it be known that the nazis were charged with a firebombing of an anarchist squat in Piraeus in August 2017 and named the apparent leader who was immediately identified as another active member of the Piraeus Section of Golden Dawn. All four charged were conditionally released.

After their arrest, the alleged Apella members were defended by the lawyer who, two months later, turned out to be an alleged AME/C18 member (see above). It is quite possible that the breaking up of Apella helped police finally to locate the, until then, unknown AME/C18 alleged members.

The apparent links between these two groups were also included in GHM’s 2017 complaint on the basis of the contacts the two groups announced in their websites and on Apella’s web radio. Thus, the – until recent – perception of supposed enmity between GD and the smaller nazi grouplets is seriously challenged by these developments.