As judges and defense attorneys were locked in deliberations on sentencing Thursday following Wednesday’s court ruling deeming the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn to have operated as a criminal organization, a row broke out between the government and the main opposition SYRIZA after a former leftist justice minister suggested that a new penal code introduced by the previous leftist government could result in lighter terms for GD members.
Following a long session Thursday, the Athens appeals court was to reconvene Friday at 11 a.m. to resume discussions about possible causes for leniency for the convicts. The court is expected to announce its decision on any mitigating circumstances Friday before proceeding to discuss sentencing, though the final decision on the terms and who will be sent to prison will most likely be issued on Monday, sources said.
A police operation to arrest the convicts is expected to follow once sentences are announced. It remains unclear what the ruling will mean for ex-Golden Dawn MP Yiannis Lagos, who is a member of the European Parliament. The usual process is that the European Commission drafts a “reasoned opinion” on whether the MEP’s immunity to prosecution should be lifted and MEPs vote on that. If they vote in favor, Greek authorities can formally appeal to Belgium for his extradition.
Meanwhile, a clash erupted between the government and leftist SYRIZA over comments by former leftist justice minister Stavros Kontonis, who said that he had disagreed with changes introduced to the criminal code by the SYRIZA government in the spring of 2019 making the sentences for a number of crimes more lenient. For instance, the leader of a criminal organization receives the same treatment as a member, he noted. Kontonis attributed his resignation from the party’s central committee to infighting within SYRIZA but also cited his objections to the criminal code, saying that he had shared them with former leftist premier Alexis Tsipras.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas accused SYRIZA of “siding with” Golden Dawn in several parliamentary votes over the years, including the blocking of a presidential election in December 2014 which triggered the 2015 polls that brought SYRIZA to power.
SYRIZA hit back by accusing New Democracy of “whitewashing” Golden Dawn and engaging in a “crude attempt” to distort reality. It also accused Kontonis of “adopting the propaganda and fake news of ND.”