NEWS

Parl’t lifts immunity of GD chief following heated House session

The jailed head of Greece’s Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party insisted Wednesday that a judicial crackdown on the party is an establishment plot aimed to sap its growing popularity.

Nikos Michaloliakos addressed a plenary session of Parliament during a debate on lifting his immunity on additional weapons charges, as about 600 party supporters shouted slogans outside. Also appearing in Parliament regarding the lifting of their immunity were Golden Dawn lawmakers Christos Pappas and Yiannis Lagos, both of whom are also in pre-trial custody.

Parliament voted in favor of lifting the immunity of all three, with 223 out of 224 deputies present voting in favor of the motion.

“I am the head of Greece’s third-largest party,” Michaloliakos said during a blustering speech in which he told the Parliament speaker to “shut up!” Golden Dawn lawmakers repeatedly shouted abuse at other lawmakers before walking out ahead of the vote.

“You have drawn up charges with your eyes on opinion polls,” Michaloliakos added. “You have kept me in prison, unfairly, for eight entire months … Golden Dawn is the victim of a political plot.”

The party, now Greece’s third most popular, rocketed out of the margins on a wave of anti-austerity and anti-immigrant sentiment amid the country’s acute financial crisis. In national elections two years ago, it gained 18 of Parliament’s 300 seats.

The Golden Dawn chief also alleged that several New Democracy officials, among them Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s press spokesman Giorgos Mouroutis, had approached the ultra nationalist party in search of a possible political collaboration. In a statement released following Michaloliakos’s remarks, Mouroutis denied ever meeting with the Golden Dawn chief or any other party member.

The three of the six far right lawmakers jailed pending trial for allegedly running a criminal organization arrived in Parliament earlier Wednesday from a maximum security Athens prison where they have been held for more than eight months. Reports suggested that tight security measures failed to prevent a group of Golden Dawn supporters from hosting a small rally inside the House.

The three Golden Dawn officials denied any wrongdoing, arguing that unlicensed firearms found in their homes were for their personal protection.

“I was a target of terrorists,” Michaloliakos said, adding that he was an “unrepentant nationalist and Golden Dawn member.”

All 18 lawmakers elected on the Golden Dawn ticket — two of whom have since left the party — have been charged with running a criminal organization, as part of an investigation following last year’s killing of a left-wing musician by a Golden Dawn supporter.

They deny the charges. No trial date has been set.

[AFP & Kathimerini English Edition]