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Greek court clears Golden Dawn for EU vote

Move to allow far-right party to stand in May poll comes despite imprisonment of six of its MPs, including its leader.

Last updated: 12 May 2014 07:18
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The once fringe party's popularity has surged in the wake of Greece's economic crisis [AFP]

Greece's Supreme Court has allowed the far-right Golden Dawn party to take part in upcoming European parliament elections, a party lawyer has said.

The move came despite the imprisonment of six of its MPs, including its leader, over claims of involvement in political violence.

Nearly all of the party's 18 politicians are under investigation over serious crimes allegedly committed by the once-fringe party over the past two years, during its rise to prominence.

Under Greek law, candidates are only prevented from standing in an election if they are convicted of a crime, not if they are under investigation.

"We expected this decision. We have faith in Greek justice," lawyer Pavlos Sarakis told the AFP news agency.

A date for the criminal trials has yet to be set.

The party's European election list includes none of its parliamentary deputies. Among its candidates are two retired senior army officers.

Evidence being used against Golden Dawn includes claims of assault against political opponents, as well as the murders of a Pakistani migrant and a left-wing Greek rapper last year.

Nazi and fascist memorabilia was also found in the home of Golden Dawn's deputy leader earlier this year.

Political persecution

Golden Dawn says it is facing political persecution by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' conservative-led coalition government, because it fears its popular appeal.

To deal with the possibility of a ban in European and local elections, due on May 18 and 25, Golden Dawn recently created a sister party called National Dawn.

However, late on Sunday Golden Dawn said this second party would not take part in the European ballot.

Samaras said the party should be defeated through ideology, not banned, and insisted he would not influence the judiciary on the issue.

Golden Dawn surged in popularity in the wake of the country's debt crisis, tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms.

The party took about seven percent of the vote in the 2012 Greek election. It now polls at around eight percent, compared to around 18 to 20 percent for the main parties.

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