It marks the first time in Greek history that imprisoned MPs have appeared in parliament, having been transferred from jail under heavy police guard. Members of the public were also prevented from entering the parliament building.
In all four cases parliament voted overwhelmingly to suspend the parliamentary immunity of the MPs. Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos, Nikos Michos, Giorgos Germenis and Stathis Boukouras will face trial on charges of participating in a criminal organization and illegal possession of guns and explosives.
Prior to the vote each of the parliamentarians addressed the chamber. They were far from united however as two of the MPs, had left party in March under the weight of the charges levelled against them for participation in the neo-Nazi organisation. Stathis Boukouras and Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos effectively tried to distance themselves from the criminal activities alleged against Golden Dawn and as a result faced mockery and denunciations from their former comrades. They both claimed that they had joined the party for ‘patriotic’ reasons but had become disillusioned.
Alexopoulos was the first to take the floor. Turning on his former party he alleged outright that it had perpetrated criminal acts directed at the highest level, but denied that he had had any part in them. He appealed that his own parliamentary immunity not be lifted. “Without having the slightest participation, I watched along with all other citizens a series of illegal acts, in which Golden Dawn Members of Parliament also took part… I did not have the power to stop them, let alone direct them.”
Alexopoulos also maintained that he had become disillusioned with the party and had been thinking about leaving the party from September following the murder of antifascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member (he eventually did so in March). He said that the reason he did not leave the party sooner was that he was concerned about violent reprisals. After the president of the Patriotic Association of Larissa was beaten by Golden Dawn MPs he became fearful that he and his family would suffer the same fate, he said.
Alexopoulos faced jeers from the remaining Golden Dawn MPs in the chamber during and after his speech. GD spokesperson Ilias Kasidiaris reportedly sarcastically shouted ‘Bravo Alexopoulos’ while several other neo-fascist MPs waved banknotes in the air to imply that he had been paid to turn against them.
There was even more high drama when Stathis Boukouras took the floor. Shortly into his speech he became emotional and began crying as he talked about his family and claimed his innocence. Sobbing he shouted, “[My children] come to the jail, I see them for one hour a week! One hour a week I see them!! And they ask me ‘father why are you in prison?’ I can’t answer them! I look them in the eyes and cry and I don’t know what to tell them! Why am I in prison?! … I am proud that I am in here! I never insulted anyone of you. I happened to become an MP for Golden Dawn! I am not a fascist! I am not a Nazi! I am a Greek patriot and I love this land! I fight for this land!”
As Boukouras broke down Golden Dawn MPs laughed and mocked him. “I’m very sorry,” Boukouras said in response, “because I gave an honest and clean fight in Golden Dawn and right now some former comrades are laughing and mocking me.” His emotional outburst led some from the right-wing Independent Greeks party to applaud him as he relinquished the floor.
According to magistrates assembling the case file against Golden Dawn MPs, the party was founded on Nazi lines with political and paramilitary branches. The many violent crimes linked to it include the murders of Pavlos Fyssas, Pakistani worker Shehzad Luqman and numerous other violent attacks on immigrants in Athens and other cities. The magistrates state that all four MPs knew and lauded the crimes according to enetenglish.gr.