Greece plans new anti-racism law amid Golden Dawn crackdown

ATHENS Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:04am EDT

A Greek police officer (R) watches as a member of the Golden Dawn far-right party enters the party's headquarters in Athens September 18, 2013. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

A Greek police officer (R) watches as a member of the Golden Dawn far-right party enters the party's headquarters in Athens September 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/John Kolesidis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek government said on Monday it would soon present a bill targeting racist hate speech, part of a crackdown on the far-right Golden Dawn party after the killing of an anti-fascist rapper.

"(The bill) will be submitted to parliament in a matter of days. It has symbolic and moral value," Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters, adding that it would align Greek legislation with European standards.

Greece's ruling coalition had been at loggerheads over whether it needed a new anti-racism law to deal with racist and inflammatory talk used by Golden Dawn.

Venizelos's Socialist PASOK party had pushed for a new law, while the main ruling conservative party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had argued that current legislation was enough.

But the murder of rapper Pavlos Fissas on September 17 by a Golden Dawn supporter prompted a crackdown on Greece's third-most popular party, whose fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric has attracted support amid a severe economic crisis.

Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos and four other party lawmakers are due to appear in court this week to respond to charges of forming a criminal organization.

The government is also preparing another law that would suspend Golden Dawn's state funding on the grounds that its leadership is facing prosecution on felony charges.

"Democracy can't fund its opponents," Venizelos said.

Golden Dawn features a swastika-like emblem and its members have been seen giving Nazi salutes. Prosecutors are investigating the party for links to about 30 violent attacks, including the killing of the rapper and a Pakistani immigrant.

The party has denied any connection to the rapper's death and also rejects the neo-Nazi label.

An outright ban of a political party is difficult under Greek law. The government plans instead to undermine Golden Dawn by cutting its money flows and dismantling its leadership.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; writing by Harry Papachristou, editing by Gareth Jones)

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