A Greek court Monday on rejected calls for leniency for the leaders of the notorious Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, paving the way for sentences of up to 15 years after a five-year trial, AFP reports.
The court refused lawyers' 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 organization.
The announcement of the sentencing that had been expected Tuesday was expected to be delayed after one of the defendants -- independent Eurodeputy Ioannis Lagos -- asked that the court be recused for “bias”.
However, government spokesman Stelios Petsas later told reporters that "the court will pronounce the sentences in a few hours."
After over five years of hearings, the panel of three judges on Wednesday unanimously labelled the paramilitary party a criminal organization in the trial described as one of the most important in Greece's political history.
More than 50 defendants were convicted of crimes ranging from running a criminal organization, murder and assault to illegal weapons possession.
On Thursday, the court adjourned the sentencing procedure for the 18 former lawmakers of the party and others convicted in the case.
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.
Golden Dawn, founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s, has become notorious for its blatant anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric, openly displaying copies of “Mein Kampf,” as well as other works on Greek racial superiority at party headquarters.
Michaloliakos has claimed that Nazi concentration camps did not use ovens and gas chambers to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.
In recent years, the party has been the subject of a crackdown by Greek authorities, with several of its leaders being arrested and tried.
Last Wednesday’s verdict was welcomed by the World Jewish Congress (WJC), which said, “Today’s decision sends a clear message that Greek society does not tolerate hate and division. We salute Greece’s past and current political leadership for taking the necessary measures to eradicate this abhorrent group’s platform for disseminating hate.”
“This decision is not only historic for Greece, but for all those who support democratic values. The World Jewish Congress hopes that legislation and policies that promote education, respect and tolerance will be implemented around the world, so movements like Golden Dawn will never find fertile ground to grow,” the WJC statement added.