By John Hadoulis, AFP
ATHENS–Four lawmakers from Greece’s Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party were charged Wednesday with belonging to a criminal organization as the authorities move to dismantle the group after the murder of an anti-fascist musician. The indictments — the first ever against neo-Nazi MPs in Greece — were unveiled as Golden Dawn’s leader was due to appear in court later Wednesday facing the same charge. Three of those indicted Wednesday were released, a move seen as surprising given the gravity of the charges, but government officials stressed the political importance of the judicial action against them.
“Criminal charges have been filed … this is just the first phase,” Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis told Skai TV. “What is politically important is that Golden Dawn is characterized as a criminal organization,” the ruling party’s parliament spokesman Makis Voridis told the station. Golden Dawn was the country’s third most popular party until the murder of anti-fascist hip-hop musician Pavlos Fyssas on Sept. 18 sparked nationwide protests and a government crackdown on the group long accused of attacking immigrants, charges that it denies. The four lawmakers — Ilias Kasidiaris, Yiannis Lagos, Nikos Michos and Ilias Panagiotaros — were all indicted by magistrates on a charge of belonging to a criminal organization. Lagos was placed in pre-trial detention, but the remaining three were conditionally released, a judicial source said. Kassidiaris was ordered to pay 50,000 euros (US$68,000) in bail, and all three freed lawmakers were banned from leaving the country, the source said. “Enjoy your democracy,” the lawmakers told reporters as they walked out of the court complex.