The trial of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn members began in Greece Monday before being quickly adjourned until May 7, after a judge decided the trial could not continue as one defendant did not have a lawyer.
Golden Dawn’s leader and lawmakers were also absent from the trial, which started after a 15-month investigation into the party. The party has been accused of being a criminal organisation.
Golden Dawn is suspected of involvement in numerous attacks in recent years, mostly against immigrants, as well as the murder of the left-wing activist rapper Pavlos Fyssas which led to a crackdown on the party.
Only 40 defendants turned up. The absent defendants were instead represented in the court in west Athens by their lawyers, who did not give an explanation regarding their non-attendance.
Weapons and Nazi paraphernalia were among illegal items found by the Greek authorities during raids on the homes of Golden Dawn members following the killing.
Giorgos Roupakias, a Golden Dawn member who admitted to the murder of Fyssas, was in attendance at the court Monday.
Men believed to be Golden Dawn supporters attacked three friends of the murdered rapper as they made their way to court, leaving two of them needing to be hospitalized with minor injuries.
Police also set up barricades to separate rival protesters amid tense scenes outside the courthouse, while schools in the area remained closed.
A huge police investigation into the party began with the round-up of many of its leaders and MPs, more than half of whom have since been charged.
Prosecutor Isidoros Doyiakos, who headed the investigation into Golden Dawn's activities, said the organisation aimed "to propagate and impose its political beliefs and theories through violence."
Golden Dawn, however, says it has no involvement in any violent activities and rejects the charges. It argues that its senior members are victims of political conspiracy aimed at stemming their surge in popularity during Greece's major financial crisis.
Despite the investigations and arrests of its leaders, support for Golden Dawn remained considerable in the latest elections January 25, when it came third with 17 out of 300 seats, winning 6.3 percent of the vote.
Altogether 16 Golden Dawn lawmakers, including 13 who were re-elected in the latest elections are among 68 individuals standing trial alongside former army commando and party leader Nikos Michaloliakos. The defendants also include party supporters and police officers.