Six Golden Dawn members lose immunity after parliament vote

Thursday 17 October 2013 18.58
Golden Dawn party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris spoke prior to the vote to lift the immunity
Golden Dawn party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris spoke prior to the vote to lift the immunity

The Greek parliament has voted to lift the immunity of six politicians from the far-right Golden Dawn party.

The move paves the way for a deeper investigation into accusations its members were involved in criminal offences.

The killing of a left-wing rapper on 17 September, which prosecutors said was carried out by a Golden Dawn supporter, triggered anti-fascist protests across the country.

Police started investigations into whether the party was involved in a string of violent attacks, including the killing.

Greece's top court charged six Golden Dawn politicians last month with belonging to a criminal group.

Golden Dawn has denied wrongdoing and accused the government of tactics not seen since a military junta ran Greece more than four decades ago.

Yesterday, politicians overwhelmingly backed the prosecutors' request to lift the immunity of the six Golden Dawn politicians.

Golden Dawn's parliamentary group abstained.

"I'm being persecuted for my beliefs, not for my actions," politician Panagiotis Iliopoulos, one of those whose immunity was removed, told parliament before the vote.

Parliament's move will allow prosecutors to lay fresh charges against the named men if they find enough evidence.

The September charges were made under a special court order that was only valid for 48 hours.

"The thieves, crooks and those who destroyed the country and sold it off to foreign loan sharks are those who should stand trial," said the Golden Dawn's Ilias Kasidiaris.

Polls show most Greeks support the crackdown.

Although the party remains Greece's third most popular political force, support has dropped to about 6-7% of voters from 10-13% before the killing.

The party rose from obscurity on an anti-immigrant and anti-austerity agenda to enter parliament for the first time last year.

Its banner features a swastika-like emblem and its leader has denied the Holocaust took place, but the group says it is not neo-Nazi.