A Greek court on Thursday ordered neo-Nazi Golden Dawn chief Nikos Michaloliakos and his former top aides to begin immediately serving their 13-year prison terms and not wait for a long appeals process.
Following the decision, warrants are to be issued for the immediate arrest of Michaloliakos and several former party lawmakers, the court said.
Michaloliakos and other former members of his inner circle were sentenced two weeks ago to over 13 years in prison for running a criminal organization.
But it had not been clear when they would begin serving their sentences.
The head judge, Maria Lepenioti, on Monday publicly questioned the state prosecutor’s demand that most of the convicted be provisionally released pending appeals trials, which could take years to adjudicate.
The five-year trial’s conclusion has been delayed by a number of legal disputes, including last week when one of the main defendants, independent Eurodeputy Ioannis Lagos, tried to have the court’s three judges recused for bias.
The court has accepted that Golden Dawn was a criminal organization run by Michaloliakos using a military-style hierarchy modelled on Hitler’s Nazi party.
The probe was sparked by the 2013 murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was ambushed by Golden Dawn members and fatally stabbed.
In a lengthy investigation, pre-trial magistrates outlined how the group formed black-clad militia to intimidate and beat up opponents with knuckle dusters, crowbars and knives.
A search of party members’ homes in 2013 uncovered firearms and other weapons, as well as Nazi memorabilia.
For 62-year-old Michaloliakos, the sentence capped a stunning downfall for a man whose party was the country’s third most popular in 2015, the year the trial began.