Leader of Greek far-right Golden Dawn to be released from jail before trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 20, 2015 9:41 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) - The leader of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party was due to be released from prison on Friday and placed under house arrest after an 18-month limit on pre-trial detention expired, court officials said.

Party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos and a more than a dozen party members were arrested on charges of founding and participating in a criminal group following the killing of an anti-fascism rapper in 2013 by a party supporter.

The killing sparked nationwide protests and prompted a government-led crackdown on the fiercely anti-immigrant party, which entered parliament for the first time in 2012 by tapping into voter anger at Greece's economic crisis.

Senior party members are among the 70 people due to go on trial on April 20, and face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Mihaloliakos and senior lawmaker Yannis Lagos were both due to be freed from Athens's high-security prison on Friday under the detention limit. Another senior lawmaker, Christos Pappas, is due to be released in a few weeks.

Mihaloliakos will be placed under house arrest, while Lagos will be banned from taking part in public gatherings. Both are forbidden to leave Greece, the court officials said.

The party denies the allegations against it and says it was the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

Among those due to go on trial are all the 16 lawmakers Golden Dawn had in the previous parliament.

Thirteen of them, including Mihaloliakos, were re-elected to parliament on Jan. 25, along with four new members, making Golden Dawn the joint third-largest party.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Kevin Liffey)