ATHENS – The former justice minister for the previously-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has quit the party over worries a law passed during its term to benefit terrorists and anarchists in jail could bring light sentences for leaders and members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn convicted of running a criminal gang.
Stavros Kontonis, not at the helm when the leniency law was passed, hadn't broken with the party over the law that the New Democracy government, which denounced it, hasn't moved to change since winning July 7, 2019 snap polls.
Speaking to Antenna TV, he said he opposed its soft terms that changed even major felonies to misdemeanors and was seen as a transparent attempt to help leftist criminals for whom the party had sympathy.
Since then, however, the leniency law has seen other killers and violent criminals released with no explanation from New Democracy why it hasn't acted to make the terms tougher.
Kontonis said he was concerned that the law will be used to give easy terms to the former lawmakers of Golden Dawn and dozens of its members, one of whom was convicted of killing anti-Fascist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas in 2013.
“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 … 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.
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 a shot at party leader Alexis Tsipras who is facing dissension in his ranks after taking a beating in 2019, Kontonis urged SYRIZA members “not to give in to a series of machinations in the runup to the (party’s) congress.”
In the past, Tsipras has turned on former supporters who went against him, including famed composer Mikis Theodorakis, whom he mocked and ridiculed even while SYRIZA broke vows not to impose austerity on workers, pensioners and the poor and did nothing, as Tsipras said, to “crush the oligarchy.”
In a statement without mentioning it had not tried to reverse the SYRIZA law, New Democracy said Kontonis' comments “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 Conservatives said of Tsipras now calling for some justice.