The suspect charged with homicide in the stabbing death of rapper 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013 finally took the stand in a delayed-fraught trial on Thursday, a closely watched case linked directly with charges that the extremist Golden Dawn party functioned as a nationwide criminal organization in Greece.
Giorgos Roupakias, who has previously admitted to being a member of far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi), was arrested at the scene of the homicide in the west Athens working-class municipality of Keratsini. Fyssas, in fact, pointed him out to police officers shortly before he died while laying bleeding on a sidewalk. Roupakias later freely confessed that he fatally stabbed Fyssas.
The otherwise "open-and-shut" case was nevertheless dramatically expanded to include an exhaustive police and judicial investigation of the entire Golden Dawn network, with numerous suspects and felony charges - including ones filed against up-until-now serving GD lawmakers - generating a massive indictment and complex hearings - and by extension significant delays.
Roupakias was kept in pre-trial custody for 18 months, the maximum allowed in Greece before a defendant must be conditionally released, as hearings were delayed. A handful of GD deputies, and leader Nikos Mihaloliakos, were also held for 18 months.
In his testimony before a three-justice appellate level court in central Athens - bumped up from the first instance due to the gravity of the offenses and number of defendants - Roupakias claimed that he attacked Fyssas because he was the nearest to him during an alleged altercation. He also claimed he was first attacked by another group of men and that he did not know the victim personally.
Initial press reports at the time claimed the altercation was football-related, as a Champions League match with a Greek team playing was being broadcast hours before the murder. However, subsequent investigation showed that a political motive was at play.
Fyssas was known in western Athens as an anti-fascist rapper and musician, with prosecutors pointing to a political motive behind his attack.