Greece to charge 1st group of neo-Nazi lawmakers
By John Hadoulis, AFPATHENS--A first batch of lawmakers from the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn are to be indicted on Tuesday on criminal charges as part of a crackdown on the group following the murder of an anti-fascist musician.
October 2, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
Four Golden Dawn MPs, along with a dozen-plus lower-ranking members, will appear at an Athens court on charges ranging from attempted and voluntary homicide to belonging to a criminal organization.
If convicted, the defendants face sentences of at least 10 years in prison.
“We have a golden opportunity to purge our society of violence,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told Skai Radio, calling the group “a criminal organization that tried to cover itself under a political cloak.”
The proceedings opened on Tuesday morning with three Golden Dawn suspects, who were transported to the Athens court complex under heavy police guard.
Other senior members will appear in court later in the week, including the founder of the former fringe party that during last year's elections rode a wave of public discontent over austerity policies in the recession-hit country to enter parliament for the first time.
Golden Dawn was the country's third most popular party until the September murder of a leftist hip-hop musician sparked nationwide protests and a government crackdown on the group long accused of attacking immigrants, charges that it denies.
The investigation has revealed a series of “criminal acts” by the group, culminating in the murder of anti-fascist musician Pavlos Fyssas by a self-confessed neo-Nazi on September 18, according to a government report, parts of which were leaked in the media on Monday.
Golden Dawn regularly organized “assault militias” in which dozens of members would swarm the streets, hitting any immigrant they saw with clubs, it said.
The four MPs due to appear in court on Tuesday include party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris — who is alleged to have overseen military-style training for Golden Dawn members — and Yiannis Lagos, a Piraeus deputy with a lengthy police record.
Greece's intelligence service EYP in 2012 compiled a record on Lagos with activities including extortion and the trafficking of women for prostitution, Ta Nea daily reported on Tuesday.
At the time, the investigation into Golden Dawn activities — believed to also include scores of migrant beatings — made little progress.
But authorities were forced to act after the murder of Fyssas sparked protests about the government not acting sooner against the group.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday pledged to eradicate the “shame” of neo-Nazism in the country.
“We are dedicated in completely eradicating such a 'shame,'” Samaras said in a speech to the American Jewish Committee in New York.
“We must do it within the context of our democratic constitution. But we have to go all the way and do whatever it takes,” the premier said, according to a text released by his office.