Man convicted in neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party loses EU immunity

BRUSSELS — European Union lawmakers voted Tuesday to lift the immunity of a Greek far-right member of the European Parliament who has been sentenced to 13 years in prison in Greece for being a leading member of a criminal organization.

The European Parliament voted 658-24, with 10 abstentions, to remove Ioannis Lagos’s parliamentary protection, paving the way for Belgian authorities to extradite him to Greece.

Lagos has been living in the Belgian capital, Brussels, since a Greek court in October convicted him and 17 other former Greek parliament members from the extreme-right Golden Dawn party of leading a criminal organization, or being members in it.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 12, 2020 Independent European parliamentarian MP Ioannis Lagos, a top neo-Nazi Golden Dawn organizer who defected from the party last year in 2019 after winning a European parliament seat, leaves the courtroom in Athens Oct. 12, 2020. (Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP via Getty Images)

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The other convicted Golden Dawn members are already in jail, except for one who escaped and is officially a fugitive.

A French Greens lawmaker, Marie Toussaint, who chaperoned the vote through parliament, said that “it was essential for the European Union to lift the immunity of Ioannis Lagos so that he can face justice in his country.”

“Impunity cannot be tolerated,” Toussaint said in a statement, and she warned more broadly about the dangers of hate speech in Europe and the violence it provokes.

Greek government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni, asked about the lifting of Lagos’ immunity, said “all actions have been taken for the European arrest warrant” to be issued quickly for the European Parliament member.

Golden Dawn was founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s. It saw a surge in popularity during the 2010-2018 financial crisis, gaining parliamentary representation between 2012 and 2019.

The five-year trial was launched following the 2013 murder of rap singer and left-wing activist Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed to death by a Golden Dawn supporter.

Far-right Golden Dawn supporters lifted torches outside Athens on Sept. 5. (Photo: GlobalPost)

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