Greece to lift immunity on Golden Dawn MPs
ATHENS - Agence France Presse
Yiorgos Roupakias (C) is escorted by anti-terrorism police officers at a detention room of a court in Athens October 10, 2013. Roupakias is in custody pending trial over the killing of anti-racism Greek rapper Pavlos Fissas last month. REUTERS photo
The Greek parliament was voting Wednesday on lifting the legal immunity of several MPs from the Golden Dawn party, in a continuing crackdown on the neo-Nazi organisation.
The vote comes amid investigations following a major probe into the murder of an anti-fascist musician last month.
The Golden Dawn lawmakers whose immunity from prosecution is expected to be lifted so they can face criminal charges are George Germenis, Efstathios Boukouras and Panagiotis Iliopoulos.
In addition, party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris, Ilias Panagiotaros, Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos will be called to answer lesser charges, a process also requiring parliamentary approval.
Kassidiaris and Panagiotaros were already indicted earlier this month, and conditionally freed, on the charge of belonging to a criminal organisation.
The neo-Nazi lawmakers walked out before the vote began after dismissing the investigation into the party's activities as a "conspiracy".
Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, his deputy Christos Pappas and lawmaker Yiannis Lagos are being held in Athens's high security Korydallos prison.
The party has 18 lawmakers overall in the 300-seat chamber.
The probe into Golden Dawn was prompted by the murder of hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a self-confessed neo-Nazi supporter last month.
Witnesses have since testified that senior party members were involved in migrant beatings, extortion and possible arms smuggling.
The authorities are also moving to cut the party's access to state funding, in a vote to take place on Thursday.
Golden Dawn is believed to be in possession of unlicensed firearms which it used to train elite members, according to witness testimony.
Police raids on party offices around the country have mostly found hand-to-hand weapons and few firearms.
But on Wednesday, Greek media said that a cache of weapons found in a fugitive shipowner's villa in southern Athens could be linked to Golden Dawn.
Police late on Tuesday found 20 firearms, 60 daggers and nearly a dozen laser rangefinders in the villa of Anastassios Pallis, who is sought on money laundering charges.
Two unidentified shipowners are believed to be among the party's financial backers, according to witnesses.
Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, Golden Dawn skyrocketed to popularity by tapping into widespread anger over immigration and unpopular reforms in a country that is currently slogging through its sixth year of recession and where unemployment among the young stands at a staggering 60 percent.