Greek Parliament votes to lift immunity of six Golden Dawn MPs

The country’s Parliament voted on Wednesday, by an overwhelming majority, to lift the immunity of six Golden Dawn MP, opening the way for a broadening of a criminal investigation into the ultra-right party.

A total of 246 MPs in the 300-seat Parliament voted in favor of stripping six lawmakers of their parliamentary protection from prosecution.

Three of the MPs – Stathis Boukouras, Giorgos Germenis and Panayiotis Iliopoulos – are charged with belonging to a criminal organization. Golden Dawn’s leader Nikos Michaloliakos, his second-in command Christos Pappas and another MP, Yiannis Lagos, are in pretrial custody on the same charges.

The other three GD deputies whose immunity was revoked on Wednesday – Ilias Kasidiaris, Ilias Panayiotaros and Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos – are accused of a series of offenses ranging from resisting authority to threatening a police officer.

Many of the GD lawmakers expressed exasperation in Parliament ahead of the vote, with party spokesman Kasidiaris referring to “illegal prosecutions” and “a wretched frame-up” and accusing the government of taking orders from European and US powers, a reference to Greece’s foreign lenders. Iliopoulos told the House that he would tell his unborn daughter the story of his political persecution.

The vote will allow prosecutors to start leveling charges against the MPs though it was unclear whether arrest warrants would be issued before the appointment of a higher-level magistrate who is expected to take over the ever-broadening investigation into Golden Dawn this week.

Even as the vote was under way on Wednesday, Supreme Court prosecutors forwarded a new appeal to the House to lift the immunity of Kasidiaris and Panayiotaros for violent behavior during a memorial in Meligala in the Peloponnese.

An ongoing bid by the government and leftist opposition SYRIZA to reach a common position on a bill that would halt state funding for parties whose leaders or MPs are charged with serious crimes continued Wednesday, with both sides edging toward a compromise, and a vote expected in Parliament on Thursday.