Greek former neo-Nazi MEP arrested in Brussels

Athens (AFP) –


The former leading member of Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party was arrested in Belgium on Tuesday, hours after the European Parliament lifted his immunity, Greek police said.

A police source confirmed to AFP that MEP Ioannis Lagos was arrested in Brussels under an international arrest warrant to serve a 13-year jail term in Greece.

The independent MEP had earlier tweeted: "I am in a Belgian police car... being taken to jail."

State news agency ANA said procedures were under way for Lagos' extradition to Greece.

The 48-year-old former nightclub bouncer had been convicted in October, along with other leaders and members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, on several charges, including running a criminal organisation.

But the court ruling could not be enforced until Monday evening, when EU lawmakers in a secret ballot overwhelmingly approved that Lagos be stripped of his immunity as an MEP, with 658 backing the move and only 25 opposed.

Lagos had been elected to the European Parliament in 2019 on a Golden Dawn ticket before defecting just weeks later.

- Stunning downfall -

The marathon trial of the Golden Dawn top brass, including founder and longterm leader Nikos Michaloliakos, was seen as one of the most important in Greece's modern political history.

In total, more than 50 defendants were convicted of crimes ranging from running a criminal organisation, murder and assault, to illegal weapons possession.

The jail terms capped a stunning downfall for a party which was the country's third most popular in 2015.

The crackdown was sparked by the late-night murder of a 34-year-old anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, stabbed to death in front of a cafe in the western Athens suburb of Keratsini in September 2013.

Lagos was Golden Dawn's local commander in the area where Fyssas was murdered.

"Nothing would have been done without approval from Lagos, there is no chance," the victim's mother Magda had told the court during the trial.

Other crimes committed in the area overseen by Lagos included assaults on Egyptian fishermen and Communist unionists in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Michaloliakos and the majority of those found guilty are already behind bars, but Golden Dawn deputy leader Christos Pappas is currently on the run.

Greek media have reported that Pappas could be hiding under the guise of a monk somewhere in the Balkans.

Tapping into anti-austerity and anti-migrant anger during Greece's decade-long debt crisis, Golden Dawn won 18 seats in parliament in 2012, with its lawmakers repeatedly shocking the chamber with provocative and aggressive behaviour.

It further boosted its influence in 2015, but began to ebb as the group's crime began coming to light in trial testimony.

The party failed to win a single seat in the last parliamentary election in 2019.