Greek parliament lifts immunity for Golden Dawn leader
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
The leader of the far-right political party Golden Dawn Nikos Michaloliakos speaks at the Parliament in Athens on June 4. AP PhotoAngry scenes unfolded in Greece's parliament on June 4 after lawmakers voted to lift immunity for the jailed leader of extreme right party Golden Dawn and two of his deputies.
"Shame on you, pseudo-politicians... you have ordered and organised a conspiracy," declared Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos after the vote. All but one of the 224 deputies present backed proposals to lift the parliamentary immunity of the Golden Dawn founder, his right-hand man Christos Pappas and Yannis Lagos, according to a parliamentary source.
Greek prosecutors asked for the measure after criminal proceedings were launched against the three men for "carrying an illegal weapon."
Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who has been in provisional detention since September for belonging "to a criminal organisation", was transferred to parliament on Wednesday from a prison near Athens along with 16 other deputies.
Michaloliakos denounced the moves as a "political and judicial conspiracy" against his party. "You have stripped me of my civil rights in an illegal and abusive manner," he said.
The imprisoned men cited as evidence a recording made public in April by Golden Dawn in which a close aide of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is apparently heard saying the prosecutor was "persuaded" to take the case under government pressure.
"You are miserable... we live in a dictatorship under the guise of a so-called parliamentary democracy," said Pappas. During the heated exchange some 400 members of Golden Dawn gathered outside the parliamentary building in support of their leader and his deputies.
"No to prison for the nationalists," the activists chanted. Security measures were stepped up in the centre of Athens, and one of the main roads leading to parliament was closed to traffic.
"We are fighting for a better Greece. The provisional detention of the party's leader and deputies is unfair, illegal and anti-constitutional," said a 40-year-old Golden Dawn supporter, who has been unemployed for several months and gave his name only as Dimitris.
Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, the openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic Golden Dawn won entry to Greece's 300-seat parliament for the first time in elections in June 2012, tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in the debt-ridden country.
Golden Dawn also ran third in European elections last month. A crackdown against the party was launched last year following the killing of a Greek anti-fascist musician by a party member outside Athens.
Several of Golden Dawn's 18 lawmakers are now under investigation over crimes allegedly committed as the party rose to prominence.
Two Golden Dawn members were recently sentenced to life in jail for the murder of a Pakistani man in Athens in January.