Greek far-right MEP in Athens after Belgian extradition

·3-min read
MEP Ioannis Lagos arrives at an Athens court

A Greek member of the European Parliament and convicted neo-Nazi arrested in Belgium on a European warrant arrived in Athens on Saturday following his extradition.

Ioannis Lagos, a 48-year-old former nightclub bouncer and former member of the banned Golden Dawn party, arrived at Athens International Airport at 3:20 pm (1220 GMT) accompanied by five Greek policemen, airport police sources told AFP.

He had been arrested in Brussels and is due to serve a 13-year jail term in Greece.

He was taken from the airport in handcuffs directly to the prosecutor's office, where he declared: "Orthodoxy and country are worth all sacrifices".

The prosecutor decided that Lagos should be sent directly to Domokos prison in central Greece.

His lawyers, Kostas Plevris and Giannis Zografos had earlier asked for Lagos to be sent to Korydallos prison, near Athens, so that he could more easily carry out his duties as an MEP.

Lagos, who was detained in Brussels last month shortly after the European Parliament stripped him of his immunity, had been held in a prison in the Belgian capital for almost two weeks.

Initially the MEP had opposed his extradition but later agreed to being sent home to face jail.

- 'Constant struggle' -

"The Greek democracy fought and eliminated the poison of the Golden Dawn party. The rule of law stood firm against criminals. And Justice gave its answer with its decisions," Greek government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said on Saturday, commenting on Lagos' extradition.

She added though that"a constant struggle is needed so that the democracy does not face such phenomena again"

Lagos was elected to the European Parliament in 2019. He entered as a member of the far-right Golden Dawn group, but later rebadged as an independent.

In October, along with other leaders and members of Golden Dawn, he was convicted in Greece on several charges including running a criminal organisation.

But the court ruling could not be enforced while Lagos continued to enjoy an MEP's immunity from prosecution and to reside in Brussels, the seat of the European parliament.

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.

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

- Golden Dawn downfall -

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

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

Lagos was Golden Dawn's local district commander in the broader Piraeus 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.

Based on records of phone conversations between Golden Dawn members the night Fyssas was murdered, prosecutors had also argued the attack was carried out with the knowledge of senior party cadres.

They said it was part of a broader pattern of violence organised by the party against migrants and political opponents.

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.

Its influence grew in 2015 but began to ebb as the group's criminal activities began coming to light in trial testimony.

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

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