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Prosecutor recommends Golden Dawn defendants stay free during lengthy appeal

Panel of judges to make final decision on whether prison sentences for leaders of Greek neo-Nazi group will be suspended until appeal is heard

A general view of the court room and the Presiding Judge Maria Lepenioti during the trial of the Golden Dawn party trial in Athens on October 12, 2020 (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP)
A general view of the court room and the Presiding Judge Maria Lepenioti during the trial of the Golden Dawn party trial in Athens on October 12, 2020 (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP)

ATHENS, Greece — A prosecutor on Monday recommended that all former lawmakers of Greece’s extreme-right Golden Dawn party who have been convicted and sentenced to prison for leading or participating in a criminal organization should be allowed to remain free until their appeal has been heard.

Prosecutor Adamantia Economou argued that none of the former lawmakers was a flight risk or at risk of re-offending while they remain out of jail, and said most had a clean criminal record until their current conviction. She argued their sentences should be suspended, with conditions imposed, until the appeals process is completed. An appeal can take several years.

“The immediate execution of the sentences will cause irreparable damage as the procedure to the appeals court will be a long one,” the prosecutor said. “They have all the conditions for their sentences to be suspended with conditions. The accused have not tried to avoid their arrest.”

A final decision on whether the sentences will be suspended pending appeal is to be made by the panel of judges trying the case following summations by defense lawyers, and is expected either Monday night or Tuesday morning.

The lengthy sentencing procedure caps a marathon, politically charged five-year trial that involved 68 defendants, dozens of lawyers and encompassed four cases, including the 2013 fatal stabbing of left-wing Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas and physical attacks on Egyptian fishermen and left-wing activists.

Supporters of Greece’s extreme right Golden Dawn raise torches during a rally in Athens, on February 2, 2019 (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and another five leading former lawmakers received 13-year prison sentences last week after being convicted of running the party like a criminal organization. A sixth was sentenced to 10 years, while 11 other former lawmakers were convicted of participating in a criminal organization and received sentences of between five and seven years.

The lawmakers spent 18 months in jail when the trial first began and were released due to the limit of pre-trial detention being reached.

A total of 57 party members and associates were convicted on October 7, mostly for involvement in violent attacks and participating in a criminal organization.

Golden Dawn was founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s and spent decades as a fringe party on the Greek political scene. But it rose to prominence during the country’s 2010-2018 financial crisis, winning parliamentary seats in four separate elections and becoming Greece’s third-largest political party. Its popularity began to wane during the trial, and it failed to win any parliamentary seats in the 2019 general elections.

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