European Parliament deprives Greek neo-Nazi lawmaker of immunity
Update: Apr 28, 2021 11:52 AM STI
Brussels [Belgium], April 28 (ANI): Convicted neo-Nazi lawmaker Ioannis Lagos was stripped of his immunity as a member of the European Parliament on Tuesday, paving the way for his extradition to Greece months after his conviction in a landmark trial.
According to the New York Times (NYT), Lagos was one of the main members of the Golden Dawn criminal organization. The group is now gone, but at its peak it formed a political party that was the third largest in the Greek Parliament.
He told the New York Times in comments written this year that he planned to flee to a “European country” where his rights would be protected, but on Tuesday the Brussels prosecutor’s office said lawmakers “were today deprived of freedom. at noon. “
The office gave no further comment.
The European Parliament’s decision, announced Tuesday morning after a secret ballot organized the day before, comes after months of delays in protocol procedures and due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was elected to the European Parliament as an independent candidate as his trial for forming and leading a gang continued in 2019. The lawmaker stood alongside dozens of other prominent members of Golden Dawn and was sentenced to 13 years jail for leading a criminal organization. , but it was protected until now by the immunity granted to members of the European Parliament.
“Golden Dawn rose to prominence ten years ago, systematically targeting the European Union and migrants, especially Muslims, during the financial crisis which devastated the Greek economy and society,” reported the NYT.
The trial in Greece lasted more than five years and is considered one of the most important cases against neo-Nazis in contemporary Europe, where far-right forces have empowered themselves during the financial crisis and s embolden further after the refugee crisis of 2015-16.
One of the party’s main members, Christos Pappas, “remains on the run” after his conviction.
According to the NYT, Lagos has fought to retain his immunity and avoid extradition to Greece to serve his sentence, while claiming that the case against him is political and that he is being prosecuted for his political thoughts, not his acts.
The European Parliament’s decision has been hailed by Greek left-wing politicians. “The neo-Nazi of Lagos no longer has immunity in the European Parliament,” Nasos Iliopoulos, spokesperson for Syriza, Greece’s main opposition party, wrote on Twitter. “The Greek authorities should act quickly so that we do not experience the fiasco with Christos Pappas.”
However, the European Parliament has been criticized for taking months to deliberate on lifting the immunity of the neo-Nazi lawmaker and for refusing to prioritize his case over other pending immunity cases from wanted EU lawmakers. in their home country on smaller legal issues.
But the parliamentary committee overseeing the process has defended the pace and prioritization of cases as being in part a matter of slowed down deliberations due to the coronavirus outbreak and in part an effort to follow protocol meticulously to avoid accusations of bias.
The NYT reported that the committee recommended that the European Parliament lift Lagos’ immunity last week, in an anonymous vote of 22 to 2, and the whole of Parliament supported the decision by 658 to 25. , with 10 abstentions.
David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, told the New York Times he was “satisfied” with the decision taken by “an overwhelming majority” of lawmakers.
“It is now up to the competent national authorities in Greece to conclude the criminal proceedings and bring to justice all members of this neo-fascist and the criminal group which has shaken Greek society for too long,” he added.
Theodoros Chronopoulos, a Greek police spokesperson, said that once returned to Greece, Lagos would immediately be sent to prison to serve his sentence.
“Because Lagos was detained in Belgium, where Parliament is based most of the time and where he resides, it is now up to a national court to rule on Greece’s extradition request,” according to the NYT.
Legal proceedings in Belgium could take months. If the Belgians block a request, Lagos could continue to sit in the European Parliament without immunity rights, but that seems highly unlikely, as the outlet reports. (ANI)