ATHENS Three senior lawmakers from Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party were freed on Wednesday pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal group while a fourth was ordered to be kept in detention, a court official told Reuters.
The surprise decision to free the lawmakers complicates the government's efforts to clamp down on the party after one of its sympathizers stabbed an anti-fascism rapper to death last month.
The party's spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, was released on bail of 50,000 euros. He, Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos were all ordered not to leave Greece. A fourth Golden Dawn legislator, Yannis Lagos, was remanded in custody.
All four denied charges against them in a marathon plea session before an investigating magistrate that ended early on Wednesday after more than 18 hours. Kasidiaris said he was a victim of political persecution.
The men were arrested on Saturday alongside party leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos. They have been charged on what prosecutors say is evidence linking the party with a string of attacks, including the stabbing of rapper Pavlos Fissas on September 17.
Mihaloliakos was due to appear before the judge later on Wednesday.
Golden Dawn denies involvement in the attack and says the man who confessed to the killing was not a party member. A date for his trial has not been set.
Kasidiaris denied before the magistrate that the party had paramilitary-like "storm troops" which he trained, the court official said on condition of anonymity.
(Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Kevin Liffey)