Greece suspends state aid to neo-Nazi party

AFP-JIJI

Greek authorities Wednesday prepared to hit neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn with fresh indictments, hours after its state funding was suspended by the legislature in a move linked to the murder of an anti-fascist musician last month.

Magistrates were expected to press criminal charges against three Golden Dawn lawmakers whose immunity from prosecution was lifted last week, a justice source said.

So far, the party’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, and two other lawmakers, including deputy party leader Christos Pappas, are being held in a high-security Athens prison on charges of running or belonging to a criminal group.

Six other Golden Dawn lawmakers have also been tied to the criminal investigation.

Early on Wednesday, the legislature adopted a bill suspending Golden Dawn’s state funding by 235 votes out of 300 lawmakers.

Members of Golden Dawn called the move “unconstitutional” and abstained from voting, walking out of the chamber after the debate.

The measure says state aid is suspended “to a party where the leader . . . or a tenth of the elected members are under investigation for constituting or participating in a criminal organization” — which is the case for Golden Dawn.

According to reports, the party has drawn €1.2 million ($1.6 million) in state funding this year.

Golden Dawn is Greece’s third-most-popular party, with 18 seats in the legislature.

Authorities began a crackdown on the far-right group following the killing of an anti-fascist musician by a self-confessed neo-Nazi.

The Sept. 18 murder of hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn supporter triggered public outrage, putting pressure on Greek authorities to take action against the party.

Having long been accused by migrant groups of turning a blind eye, police are now probing a string of violent incidents blamed on the group.

Several officers have been arrested in connection with the investigation.

Court documents have linked Golden Dawn to two murders, three attempted murders and numerous assaults.

Witnesses have also testified that senior party members were involved in migrant beatings, extortion and possible arms-smuggling.

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, Golden Dawn skyrocketed to popularity by tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in debt-wracked Greece, which is slogging through its sixth year of recession and where youth unemployment stands at 60 percent.

Golden Dawn denies all the charges against it, and claims it is the victim of a smear campaign ahead of local elections next year.

Observers say owing to constitutional safeguards designed to protect political freedom, the Golden Dawn lawmakers, including its leader, Michaloliakos, are unlikely to lose their legislature seats even if convicted.

Any attempt to ban the party would also be legally complicated, and government officials have already said it would be preferable to expose Golden Dawn’s alleged criminal activities to its own voters, rather than make political martyrs out of its leaders.