Jailed far-right Golden Dawn MP to run for governor

A Golden Dawn lawmaker is standing for governor in Greece’s May local elections despite the fact that he is in pretrial detention on charges of belonging to a criminal organization, local media reported on Sunday.

Panayiotis Iliopoulos is one of six lawmakers of the Golden Dawn party to have been jailed as part of a crackdown on the far-right party.

He accepted his candidature on Saturday by phone from the high-security prison in Athens where he has been detained since January, Athens News Agency reported.

The MP intends to run for the governor’s office in Thessaly, an agricultural region in central Greece.

On Saturday evening, Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and lawmaker Ilias Panagiotaros — who themselves face charges but were freed pending trial — presented the party’s candidatures for Thessaly at a hotel in the city of Larissa under heavy police presence.

Addressing the gathering by phone from Korydallos prison, Iliopoulos urged fellow party members “to keep fighting until they prevail”.

The neo-Nazi group stands accused of orchestrating attacks on immigrants and political opponents. A crackdown was ordered after the killing of a well-known anti-fascist rapper in September by a Golden Dawn member sparked public outrage.

Six of the party’s 18 elected members of parliament are currently behind bars awaiting trial and a total of nine have been indicted on charges of belonging to, or running, a criminal organization.

Despite the high-profile investigation Golden Dawn remains, according to recent surveys, Greece’s third-most popular party.

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, the openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic Golden Dawn entered the 300-seat parliament in 2012 after tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in debt-ridden Greece. [AFP]