Greece plans new anti-racism law amid Golden Dawn crackdown
ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek government said on Monday it would 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.
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.
"(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 it would align Greek legislation with European standards.
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.
"We are dedicated in completely eradicating such a shame," Samaras told the American Jewish Community in New York. "We have to go all the way and do whatever it takes. There is no room for the neo-Nazis in any part of the democratic world."
Three police officers who were also guards of Golden Dawn lawmakers were suspended from their posts on Monday for illegally possessing ammunition, police said.
In a search of a house belonging to Golden Dawn lawmaker Christos Pappas, police said they found a picture of Adolf Hitler with "Golden Dawn" written on it, helmets and flags depicting a swastika and Waffen-SS insignia and empty wine bottles with labels showing Italian fascist wartime leader Benito Mussolini.
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.
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)