Golden Dawn leader, MPs among 72 to stand trial

Greek judges are sending 72 members of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn including its leaders to trial for crimes including murder, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

“Seventy-two people, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and all of Golden Dawn’s lawmakers in the previous parliament will be tried,” the source said.

The move capped a 15-month investigation launched after a Golden Dawn supporter fatally stabbed a Greek rapper in September 2013.

The aggressive anti-immigration party was later linked to the murder of a Pakistani immigrant and beatings of political opponents.

The defendants face sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

The trial date has yet to be set.

Once a fringe movement, Golden Dawn rose to prominence in the depths of Greece’s recession, capitalizing on popular anger towards the established political class.

Rejecting the accusations as political propaganda, the group held on to its support base in last month’s general election.

It finished third, won 17 seats in parliament and picked up over 388,000 votes, down about 38,000 from the previous ballot in 2012.

Most of the lawmakers who will face trial were re-elected to parliament.

Golden Dawn also grabbed third place in May’s European parliament elections, naming three MEPs for the first time in its history.

Seven senior Golden Dawn members including Michaloliakos are currently behind bars, facing charges including murder, attempted homicide, illegal arms possession and participation in a criminal organization.

Investigating magistrates say the party’s structure emulated that of the Nazi party.

A search of party members’ homes during last year’s investigation found firearms and other weapons, in addition to Nazi and fascist memorabilia, officials said.