ATHENS – A convicted Greek neo-Nazi and Member of the European Parliament was extradited to Greece on Saturday to serve a 13-year sentence for being involved in leading the criminal organization Golden Dawn, once the third largest political party in Greece.
Ioannis Lagos came to Athens on a flight from Brussels, the seat of the European Parliament, where he has been the independent chairman since 2019. Parliament’s legislature stripped him of his immunity late last month.
Greek state television broadcast footage of the 48-year-old handcuffed, who was brought from an airplane into a van at Athens International Airport by armed officers from the Greek police’s anti-terrorist unit. Shortly afterwards he was rushed through the back entrance of the capital’s courtyard complex.
“Every sacrifice is worthwhile for Orthodoxy and Greece,” he told reporters.
Mr Lagos was a leading member of the far-right and now defunct Golden Dawn, which gained prominence in the Greek parliament in 2012 at the height of the country’s financial crisis. He was among the dozen former lawmakers and supporters of the party who were sentenced in a landmark judgment last October.
After the country’s best-known political trial for decades, a Greek court ruled that the party was acting as a criminal organization and had systematically launched violent attacks against migrants and left-wing critics. A total of 13 of the party’s former lawmakers have been sentenced to prison terms, including another prominent member, Christos Pappas, who remains at large.
Immediately after the judgment, Mr Lagos fled to Brussels and took advantage of the immunity granted to him as a member of the European Parliament. Parliament’s efforts to lift its immunity have been delayed by the pandemic.
Golden Dawn started out in the 1980s as an obscure far-right organization with a penchant for the use of neo-Nazi symbols and rhetoric, and was forced into mainstream politics a decade ago, fueled by public dissatisfaction with austerity measures imposed by Greece’s international creditors , and an influx of migrants.
A patriotic and anti-establishment force, it was a force in the Greek parliament from 2012 to 2019, becoming the third largest party in its prime. But it had discreet links with neo-fascist parties in Europe and the United States.
Its decline was hastened by the murder of leftist musician Pavlos Fyssas in 2013 by a member of the Golden Dawn, Giorgos Roupakias.
This murder resulted in the arrest of the entire party leadership and an investigation, resulting in a five-year trial that left most of the politicians and dozens of supporters behind bars. A notable exception is Mr Pappas, number 2 in the party, who remains at large.
Like many other members of Golden Dawn, Mr. Lagos has insisted that the case against him is politically motivated and that he will be prosecuted for his views, not his actions.
The extradition of Mr Lagos has been welcomed by the center-right government of Greece.
“Greek democracy sought and got rid of the poisonous poison of the Golden Dawn,” said Aristotelia Peloni, a government spokeswoman. “The rule of law was strongly opposed to criminals, and the judiciary responded with its decisions.”