Greece bans party linked to neo-Nazi group from May vote
Greece's Supreme Court on Tuesday banned a party founded by a jailed member of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn group from contesting the May 21 general election.
The far-right Hellenes party of Ilias Kasidiaris, a convicted leader of the now disbanded Golden Dawn, will not be able to field candidates, the court's assembly ruled by a majority of nine to one, a legal source said.
The small nationalist party Hellenes was formed in 2020 by Kasidiaris, the former spokesman and lawmaker of Golden Dawn, a few months before he was sent to prison.
He was among several top Golden Dawn members handed heavy prison sentences in October 2020 by a court that labelled the neo-Nazi party a criminal organisation.
The judges deemed Hellenes to be a "continuation of Golden Dawn", the legal source said.
Greek government spokesman Akis Skertsos welcomed what he called a "historic decision" that would prevent "the enemies of democracy" from sitting in parliament.
"It's our common duty to protect democracy," he added.
Vaso Pantazi, a lawyer for Kasidiaris, denounced the ruling, saying "half a million Greeks" were being deprived of the right to vote for the party of their choice.
The banning of a party from a Greek election is believed to be a first since the restoration of democracy in 1974 following a seven-year military dictatorship.
Another small right-wing party, EAN, received the court's authorisation to contest the election.
- Far-right fears -
Kasidiaris was among nearly 60 Golden Dawn members convicted in 2020 of the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas and other crimes including murder, assault and running a criminal organisation.
The hot-tempered former food scientist -- who was a lawmaker from 2012 to 2019 -- was sentenced to 13.5 years behind bars.
He is an admirer of the Third Reich and has a swastika tattooed on his left arm. He once slapped a communist lawmaker on television.
Jail has not stopped him from preaching to his supporters through voice messages from prison and running a YouTube channel with more than 120,000 followers.
The 42-year-old had recently stated his ambition to run for a constituency in central Athens in this month's election.
In February, the parliament amended a 2021 electoral law which stipulated that a political party cannot take part in a vote if its leadership -- official or unofficial -- has been convicted of membership of a criminal organisation.
The final decision eventually fell to the Supreme Court.
Before the ruling, Kasidiaris had denounced "an unimaginable coup against democracy" by those trying to deny a voice to "hundreds of thousands of voters" supportive of his party.
The popularity of Golden Dawn peaked at the height of Greece's financial crisis, alarming European partners.
The group was polling at 10 percent at one point in 2013, making it the third most popular party.
It failed to win a single seat in the last parliamentary election in 2019, after which Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sought to avoid neo-Nazis returning to the legislature.
According to a poll for the Open TV channel on Friday, Hellenes would win four percent of the vote in the election, meeting the three-percent threshold needed to sit in the parliament.