Greek neo-Nazi leader handed 13-year prison sentence

Greek neo-Nazi leader handed 13-year prison sentence
3 min read
A greek court handed a prison sentence to the leader of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn are reviled by many [Getty]

A Greek court on Wednesday handed a 13-year prison sentence to the leader of neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn for running a criminal organisation.

As well as Nikos Michaloliakos, the party's founder -- who received an additional one year for illegal possession of a weapon -- the court also sentenced five former members of his inner circle to prison terms.

They included current independent European Parliament member Ioannis Lagos, deputy party leader Christos Pappas, and former party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris, who recently formed a new nationalist party.

Greek judicial authorities must send a request to the European parliament for Lagos' immunity to be lifted. Lagos has threatened to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn his conviction.

Other former Golden Dawn lawmakers, including Michaloliakos' wife Eleni Zaroulia, received lighter sentences of between five and ten years.

None of Golden Dawn's main members attended the sentencing.

The court also gave a life sentence to Yiorgos Roupakias, the Golden Dawn member who murdered anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013, the act that sparked the investigation into the group.

Sentences 'too light'

Fyssas' father, who was present at the trial on Wednesday, said he was disappointed by the sentences.

"They are too light. I am not satisfied. I had hoped they would get 20 years," Fyssas told AFP.

The panel of three-judges will now determine whether any of the sentences can be suspended pending an appeal by the defendants.

Those denied this right will likely be detained later this week.

The Golden Dawn trial, which began in 2015, has been described as one of the most important in Greece's political history.

More than 50 defendants were convicted of crimes ranging from running a criminal organisation, murder and assault, to illegal weapons possession.

During the trial, prosecutors told the court that Michaloliakos -- a Holocaust denier and former protege of Greek dictator Georgios Papadopoulos -- ran his party under a military-style hierarchy modelled on Hitler's Nazi party, with himself as leader for over three decades.

A search of party members' homes in 2013 uncovered firearms and other weapons, as well as Nazi memorabilia.

Tapping into anti-austerity and anti-migrant anger during Greece's decade-long debt crisis, Golden Dawn for a time was the third most popular party in the country.

The party held seats in parliament from 2012 onwards, with its lawmakers repeatedly shocking the chamber with provocative and aggressive behaviour. 

It failed to win a single seat in last year's parliamentary election.

Michaloliakos and other former Golden Dawn lawmakers had already spent several months in prison after Fyssas' murder in 2013.

Time served in pre-trial detention will be deducted from the overall sentence.

Under Greek law, they must serve at least two-fifths of their sentence before requesting an early release.

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