The Greek parliament late on Tuesday adopted a measure suspending state aid to the far-right Golden Dawn Party, after six of its lawmakers faced charges in a high-profile probe of the group’s alleged criminal activities.
The measure was adopted by 235 votes out of 300. Members of Golden Dawn called the move “unconstitutional” and abstained from voting, walking out of the chamber after the debate.
The measure states that state aid is suspended “to a party where the leader ... or a tenth of the elected members are under investigation for constituting or participating in a criminal organization,” which is the case for Golden Dawn.
The Greek parliament voted on cutting funds for the country’s third-most popular party, with 18 seats in the legislature, after authorities began a crackdown on the extremist group following the killing of an anti-fascist musician by a self-confessed neo-Nazi.
Last week, the parliament lifted the legal immunity of the six Golden Dawn lawmakers, paving the way for their prosecution. Court documents link Golden Dawn to two murders, three attempted murders and numerous assaults.
Witnesses have also testified that senior party members were involved in migrant beatings, extortion and possible arms smuggling.
The Sept. 18 murder of hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn supporter triggered public outrage, putting pressure on Greek authorities to take action against what critics say is a neo-Nazi organization.
Having long been accused by migrant groups of turning a blind eye, police are now probing a string of violent incidents blamed on the group and several officers have been arrested in connection with the investigation.
Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, Golden Dawn skyrocketed to popularity by tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in debt-wracked Greece, which is slogging through its sixth year of recession and where youth unemployment stands at 60 percent.
Golden Dawn denies all the charges against it and claims it is the victim of a smear campaign ahead of next year’s elections.
Observers say that owing to constitutional safeguards designed to protect political freedom, the Golden Dawn lawmakers, including leader Nikos Michaloliakos, are unlikely to lose their parliamentary seats even if convicted.
Banning the party would also be legally complicated and officials have said it would be preferable to expose Golden Dawn’s alleged criminal activities to its own voters, rather than make political martyrs out of its leaders.