Greece to charge first group of neo-Nazi lawmakers
ATHENS - Agence France Presse
Lawmaker of extreme-right Golden Dawn party Christos Pappas (C) shouts as he leaves the Greek police headquarters in Athens September 29, 2013. REUTERS photoGreece was on Tuesday to indict the first batch of lawmakers from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party on charges including homicide, as part of a crackdown unleashed on the group following the murder of a musician.
Four Golden Dawn MPs, along with a dozen-plus lower-ranked members, will appear at an Athens court on charges ranging from attempted and voluntary homicide to belonging to a criminal organisation.
Other senior members will appear in court later in the week, including the founder of the formerly 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 hip-hop 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 organised "assault militias" in which dozens of members would swarm the streets, hitting any immigrant they saw with clubs, it said.
The four MPs appearing 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 the leftist hip-hop musician 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.
As part of the sweep against the group, several police officers have been suspended for alleged links to the party.
Overall, some two dozen members of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, including six lawmakers, will appear in court this week after a series of arrests and police raids on party offices at the weekend.
The party's leader Nikos Michaloliakos is set to be charged on Wednesday, followed by deputy leader Christos Pappas on Thursday.
The neo-Nazi party started its attacks in 1987, according to the government reported leaked in the media on Monday.
The magistrate's report said party members were trained in military style -- including the use of assault weaponry according to reports -- and had allegedly committed dozens of criminal acts.
Emergency legislation has been submitted to parliament to stop the institutional flow of state funds to the party that at the moment has 18 deputies in the 300-member chamber.