A Greek court Monday rejected calls for leniency for the leaders of notorious Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, paving the way for sentences of up to 15 years after a five-year trial.
The court refused requests to consider mitigating factors when sentencing party founder and long-term leader Nikos Michaloliakos and six other former party lawmakers.
They were convicted last week of crimes that include running a criminal organisation.
Monday's decision came on the 76th anniversary of Greece's liberation from Axis occupation in World War II.
Sentencing had been expected Tuesday but was held up after one of the defendants -- independent Euro MP Ioannis Lagos -- asked that the court be recused for 'bias'.
"The judges will be judged for the outrages they have committed," Lagos told reporters outside the courthouse, claiming the Greek government had sought to influence the outcome.
"They demanded the blood of...innocent people and their families," he said, adding that he planned to appeal to the European court of human rights.
However, goverment spokesman Stelios Petsas later said "the court will pronounce the sentences in a few hours."
Dozens of Communist protesters gathered outside the court near central Athens on Monday, demanding harsh sentences for the "Nazi criminals".
After over five years of hearings, the three judges had Wednesday unanimously labelled the paramilitary party a criminal organisation following a trial described as one of the most important in Greece's political history.
- Over 50 convicted -
More than 50 defendants were convicted of crimes ranging from running a criminal organisation, murder and assault to illegal weapons possession.
Michaloliakos and six others including Lagos, deputy leader Christos Pappas and former party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris will receive sentences of up to 15 years, a court source said.
Key crimes carried out by Golden Dawn are the 2013 murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas and the beating of Egyptian fishermen in 2012 and communist trade unionists in 2013, the court established on Wednesday.
The announcement was hailed by some 20,000 anti-fascist protesters gathered outside.
Police over the weekend blocked plans by Lagos to hold a demonstration outside the tribunal on Monday.
- 'Scared little people' -
Lagos, a top Golden Dawn organiser who defected from the party last year after winning a European parliament seat, last week said he was convicted by a "scared team of little people carrying out orders and trampling on every sense of law."
"You don't scare me," he tweeted.
Lagos' lawyer Constantinos Plevris -- a known Nazi sympathiser and author of an anti-Semitic book -- on Monday said the verdict had been swayed by the size of the anti-fascist protest.
"I feel like I'm in a French Revolution tribunal," he told the court, referring to the crowd outside. "Ideology is not on trial."
Lagos in January ripped up a Turkish flag in the European parliament, arguing that Turkey was to blame for illegal migration flows into Greece.
Michaloliakos has rejected his conviction as a political witchhunt.
"We were condemned over our ideas," he tweeted last week. "When illegal immigrants are the majority in Greece, when (the government) hands over everything to Turkey, when millions of Greeks are unemployed on the street, they will remember Golden Dawn."
Twitter suspended his account.
Prosecutors found Michaloliakos ran his party under a military-style hierarchy modelled on Hitler's Nazi party, with himself as leader for over three decades.
A search of party members' homes in 2013 uncovered firearms and other weapons, as well as Nazi memorabilia.
Tapping into anti-austerity and anti-migrant anger during the decade-long debt crisis, Golden Dawn for a time was the third most popular party in Greece.
The party was in parliament from 2012, with its lawmakers repeatedly shocking the chamber with provocative and aggressive behaviour.
It failed to win a single seat in last year's parliamentary election.