A member of the European Parliament has appeared in court in Greece after being convicted last week of being a leading member in a criminal organisation along with members of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party.
Ioannis Lagos, who faces up to 15 years in prison, travelled from Brussels to Athens to attend the sentencing hearings on Monday. He made a formal request that the three judges trying the case be replaced.
“I believe that there is a prevailing bias against the defendants and that the judges involved in the case came under direct and indirect pressure from the political establishment,” Lagos told the court.
Lagos and 17 other former Greek parliament members from Golden Dawn were convicted last week of leading a criminal organisation, or simple membership in one, and face sentences of between five and 15 years in prison.
Dozens of other Golden Dawn members and associates were also convicted of numerous offences, from murder and violent assaults against immigrants to perjury.
Presiding judge Maria Lepenioti said mitigating circumstances would be granted to four former lawmakers and 10 other convicted members on the grounds of age, expression of remorse, and lack of prior convictions. Leniency was not recognised for Lagos or six other former parliament members considered to be leaders of the organisation.
Golden Dawn – which was founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s – saw a surge in popularity during the recent financial crisis, gaining parliamentary representation between 2012 and 2019.
The five-year trial was launched following the 2013 murder of rapper and left-wing activist Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed to death by a Golden Dawn supporter.
Hundreds of protesters, many from left-wing groups and labour unions, gathered outside the court and chanted: “Smash the fascists in every neighbourhood.” Police banned a rally planned by supporters of Golden Dawn.
Sentences are expected to be announced later on Monday unless the judges are replaced.