Former justice minister Stavros Kontonis has resigned from SYRIZA, citing concerns about divisions in the main opposition party, but also about the criminal code introduced by the leftist administration last year, which, he said, may have a negative impact on the Golden Dawn trial.
Speaking to Antenna TV on Thursday morning, Kontonis, who served as justice minister in the SYRIZA-led government from 2016 to 2018, said that he had disagreed with changes introduced to the criminal code by the leftist government in the spring of 2019 making the sentences for a number of crimes more lenient.
He specifically expressed concern about the sentences that are due be passed down to the leadership of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which was found guilty on Wednesday of forming and running a criminal organization.
“I disagreed with several points of the new penal code… I had expressed my reservations and had publicly stated that the legislation exposed the government, as several provisions also relate to decisions like the one yesterday on Golden Dawn,” Kontonis said.
Under the new criminal code, the leader of a criminal organization receives the same treatment as a member, he said as the Athens Court of Appeals is due to start issuing sentences in the landmark trial against the neo-Nazi party.
Kontonis said that his decision to resign from the main opposition party now was prompted by “in-fighting,” which, he said, “does not correspond to the needs of workers, the people and society.”
In an apparent barb aimed at party leader Alexis Tsipras, Kontonis also appealed to fellow SYRIZA members “not to give in to a series of machinations in the runup to the [party’s] congress.”
Ruling New Democracy responded to Kontonis’ comments by saying that they “expose Mr Tsipras’ blatant cynicism and profound hypocrisy.”
“He stood outside the appeals court demanding the conviction of Golden Dawn’s officials when as prime minister he had ensured a ‘softer fall’ for them,” the conservative party said in an announcement.