Delays Could Free Golden Dawn Suspects

Golden Dawn MPs could be released from detention because Parliament has been slow to lift the immunity of others.

ATHENS – Delays by Greek lawmakers in lifting the immunity of MPs from the ultra far-right Golden Dawn charged with an array of crimes could lead to the party’s hierarchy being released from detention before being tried on charges of running a criminal gang.

The warning came from magistrates overseeing the investigation into alleged illegal activities of the party, whose hierarchy is charged with running a criminal organization.

In their note to MPs, magistrates Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou said that the case files have not yet been closed and the maximum time some of suspects can be held in custody will expire before their court dates are set and they would have to be released until coming to trial.

Klapa and Dimitropoulou said delays in lifting Golden Dawn MPs’ parliamentary immunity are hampering the progress of the investigation.

On April 2, Parliament voted to lift the immunity of another four Golden Dawn MPs on charges of setting up a criminal organization.

This brought the total number of neo-Nazi MPs facing prosecution on charges of setting up a criminal investigation to 13, six of whom are in jail, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos. His wife, Eleni Zaroulia, also an MP, is one of those charged.

Besides the major charge, the Golden Dawn MP’s facing other accusations of wrongdoing have to have their immunity lifted in every instance or they can’t be prosecuted. Members of Parliament are untouchable for virtually any crime unless their protection is lifted.

Supreme Court prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani asked Parliament to lift the immunity of Golden Dawn lawmaker Artemis Matthaiopoulos so he can face theft charges in connection with a mugging in central Athens in 2005.

According to the case file submitted by Koutzamani to the House, Matthaiopoulos and several accomplices used threats and violence to steal a bag from a local in the area of the Ancient Agora in August 2005.

Meanwhile, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) submitted a request to the Supreme Court for an investigation into whether the claims made by ex-cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos in a secretly filmed conversation with Golden Dawn spokesman were true.

Baltakos suggested that the probe into the far-right party had been politically influenced but later said he was lying to Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and was working on his own as a secret agent to ferret out information about the party.

But he later also suggested that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy’s party and the right-wing Independent Greeks, made up of Conservatives outcasts and rejects, should join with Golden Dawn to form an alliance he said could rule Greece for 50 years.