Watch live:

Greek Parliament lifts 6 MPs' immunity

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's Parliament lifted the immunity from prosecution of six lawmakers from the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party on Wednesday, as part of a crackdown on the group sparked by the fatal stabbing last month of a Greek rapper.

Golden Dawn lawmakers walked out before the vote, which saw near-unanimous approval.

The government argues the party operates as a criminal organization. Golden Dawn argues that the case against it is politically motivated.

"I am being prosecuted for what I believe in, and not for my actions," Panagiotis Iliopoulos, one of the lawmakers whose immunity was lifted, said in Parliament ahead of the vote.

Three other top party members, including its leader Nikos Michaloliakos, have been jailed pending trial on charges of running or participating in a criminal group. It was the first time since democracy was restored in Greece after the 1974 end of a seven-year military dictatorship that sitting members of Parliament have been jailed.

With Greece plunged into a financial crisis, Golden Dawn rose from a fringe group to win 18 of Parliament's 300 seats in 2012 elections, despite widespread accusations it organizes attacks on immigrants, political opponents and gays.

Now Greece's third most popular party, Golden Dawn denies it is neo-Nazi, although many prominent members have an affinity for Nazi symbols and slogans.

The crackdown on the party came after the death of 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas, a rap musician who was stabbed as he left a cafe on the outskirts of Piraeus. A man arrested at the scene of the attack admitted to the stabbing and identified himself as being involved in Golden Dawn.

None of the six lawmakers have been charged with any involvement in Fyssas' death. Instead, they are expected to be charged with involvement in a criminal group and some also with public disturbance offenses.

The party has vehemently denied it had anything to do with Fyssas' stabbing.

"It is clear that the aim you all have is to politically disarm Golden Dawn. It is the aim of all of you to exclude Golden Dawn from elections," said Ilias Kassidiaris, the party spokesman and one of the six deputies who saw his immunity lifted. Greece is to hold local elections next year.

"We are the subject of a disgusting conspiracy, with illegal and unconstitutional arrests ordered by a government that is enslaved to foreign interests and is selling out the country," Kassidiaris said.

On Thursday, lawmakers are to debate draft legislation — prompted by the Golden Dawn arrests — that would allow Parliament to suspend state funding for political parties whose leadership, or a large number of whose deputies, are "involved in" criminal acts.

Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis said late Wednesday that the proposed law would apply to cases of involvement in a criminal group as well as terrorism.

An investigation into Golden Dawn has led to police raids on party offices and the homes of some party members and supporters, as well as on those of police officers accused of turning a blind eye or helping with alleged illegal activity by the group.

More than 30 arrest warrants were issued, and the searches have uncovered homemade shields, knives, bats and some firearms.

In a statement Wednesday, police said that a search of a Greek businessman's home near Athens uncovered about 30 registered firearms, a collection of knives, three dozen laser sights for firearms, an anti-tank shell and Nazi memorabilia. The search was carried out following allegations that the businessman, who is wanted by Greek authorities on unrelated charges, may have been providing weapons to Golden Dawn.

The party issued a statement denying any link with the businessman, who has not been named in accordance with Greek privacy laws.

View Comments (1)

Recommended for You

  • Photo of Chicago police officers posing over black man as hunted animal released: newspaper

    (Reuters) - A photo of two white Chicago police officers holding rifles and posing over a black man wearing antlers like an animal killed on a hunt was released by an Illinois court, the Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday. The news comes amid a national outcry against police treatment of…

    Reuters
  • Racist trolling casts pall over US spelling bee

    Racist trolling on social media is casting an ugly pall over, of all things, the world's foremost spelling bee. For seven years in a row, and for 11 of the past 15 years, the $30,000 Scripps National Spelling Bee championship has been won by American youngsters of Indian heritage. One of them,…

    AFP
  • California man drowns swimming across pond with rock: newspaper

    A man drowned on his 21st birthday after attempting to swim across a pond in northern California while carrying a 10-pound (4.5 kg) rock, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday. The California Highway Patrol told the newspaper that Austin Harr was with friends at a pond in the Oroville…

    Reuters
  • Wounded woman testifies in Nevada about trespass killing

    RENO, Nev. (AP) — A female trespasser who survived a shooting in a vacant Nevada duplex testified Wednesday that the property owner entered the unit and opened fire without provocation, wounding her three times and killing a man on the floor next to her.

    Associated Press
  • US threatening 'chaos' in Asia-Pacific: China

    China accused the United States on Thursday of threatening to sow "chaos" in the Asia-Pacific region by inciting countries whose territorial claims in the South China Sea clash with those of Beijing. China is rapidly building artificial islands in the disputed waters, and US Defense Secretary…

    AFP
  • Putin classifies information on deaths of Russian troops on special missions

    President Vladimir Putin on Thursday declared all deaths of Russian soldiers during special operations to be classified as a state secret, a move that comes as Moscow stands accused of sending soldiers to fight in eastern Ukraine. Putin, who has repeatedly denied any involvement of Russian troops…

    Reuters
  • The Statin Dilemma: a Primer for Patients

    Statins have redefined the treatment of heart disease. Statins work by halting or reducing the buildup of fatty plaque inside blood vessels, a condition known as atherosclerosis, chiefly fueled by abnormally high cholesterol and the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. A true game changer in…

    U.S.News & World Report
  • View

    Balloon animals (15 photos)

    A series of balloon animals have become super-realistic thanks to an artists amazing photoshop talents. Sarah DeRemer, 25, from Los Angeles, uses actual photos of animals faces and coats to give pictures of balloons an animal kingdom twist. She has managed to turn a balloon dog and a butterfly -…

    Yahoo News26 mins ago
  • Baltimore residents fearful amid rash of homicides

    BALTIMORE (AP) — Antoinette Perrine has barricaded her front door since her brother was killed three weeks ago on a basketball court near her home in the Harlem Park neighborhood of West Baltimore. She already has iron bars outside her windows and added metal slabs on the inside to deflect the…

    Associated Press
  • Kansas man missing for 23 years found submerged in car

    By Kevin Murphy KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Reuters) - The body of a man missing since 1992 has been recovered from the driver's seat of a car submerged in a Kansas lake, authorities said on Tuesday. Fremont O'Berg, who was 57 when he disappeared, was found alone in his 1981 Chevrolet Citation automobile in…

    Reuters
  • A closer look at those killed in Texas, Oklahoma weather

    At least 21 people have died in flooding and tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas since the start of the Memorial Day weekend. A look at the lives of some of the victims:

    Associated Press
  • Mystery of holes in Swiss cheese cracked after a century

    Eureka! After about a century of research, Swiss scientists have finally cracked the mystery of the holes in Swiss cheese. Experts from Agroscope, a state centre for agricultural research, said the phenomenon -- which marks famous Swiss cheeses such as Emmental and Appenzell -- was caused by tiny…

    AFP
  • Six reasons so many Republicans are running for president

    When all the announcements are in, the Republican presidential field could have close to 20 candidates – and that’s not counting the fringe. It’s shaping up to be the largest GOP field in modern history. The Republicans have a habit of nominating the “next in line” – that is, someone who ran before…

    Christian Science Monitor
  • To see why Amtrak's losses mount, hop on the Empire Builder train

    By Ernest Scheyder ABOARD THE EMPIRE BUILDER (Reuters) - Its passengers are mostly silver-haired retirees, oil-field workers and a few young families gazing out the windows of Amtrak's least-profitable and third-longest line, rumbling from Chicago through eight states and on to the American West…

    Reuters
  • French barman sentenced after man drinks 56 shots and dies

    Clermont-Ferrand (France) (AFP) - A French barman received a suspended jail sentence Wednesday after he was convicted of manslaughter for letting a man do 56 shots during a drinking contest that led to his death. Renaud Prudhomme, 56, broke the in-house shots record last October at Starter, a bar…

    AFP
  • Play

    Police Make Example of Homeless Man Begging With $800 in Pockets

    A police department in Louisiana took issue of homelessness on their Facebook page last week in an unapologetic way, after arresting a homeless man who had $800 in cash stuffed in his pockets.

    Tribune
  • The Latest: Williams vs. Azarenka next at French Open

    PARIS (AP) — The Latest from the French Open:

    Associated Press19 mins ago