* Three lawmakers freed, one detained pending trial
* Freed lawmakers storm out of court
* Chanting supporters greet party leader
By Renee Maltezou and Yorgos Karahalis
ATHENS, Oct 2 Three senior lawmakers from
Greece's far-right Golden Dawn were freed on Wednesday pending
trial on criminal charges, an unexpected setback to the
government's efforts to clamp down on a party it has labelled a
neo-Nazi criminal gang.
The decision to free the men after an 18-hour court session
raises questions about the solidity of the state's case against
Golden Dawn after one of its sympathisers stabbed to death an
Party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and fellow lawmakers Ilias
Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos stormed out of the court to cheers
of "bravo" from supporters. They kicked and shoved journalists
out of the way before hailing a taxi.
"We will not back down!" Michos shouted. "You can only stop
us with bullets. Even from the grave, we will rise up - know
The unfolding saga has riveted a country where a crackdown
on elected politicians has not been seen since a military coup
nearly five decades ago.
Golden Dawn rose from being a fringe party to win 18 seats
in parliament in last year's election. It has drawn on anger
over the debt crisis, budget cuts, high unemployment and
corruption to become what opinion polls indicate is Greece's
third most popular party, but has lost about a third of its
support since the killing.
The images of the men walking freely were in stark contrast
to footage of the party's leaders handcuffed and hustled to
police headquarters at the weekend.
"The political world is shocked," said Asimina Ksirotiri, a
lawmaker from the Democratic Left party said in parliament.
In a letter by Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos
written from his police cell and published on the party's
website on Wednesday, he said the authorities would not succeed
in their effort to undermine his party.
"The truth will ultimately shine, their plans will not pass.
However this dark story ends, it is certain that we Golden
Dawners made history and no one can take this away from us," he
Mihaloliakos later arrived at court flanked by hooded
anti-terrorism policemen with machineguns.
Hundreds of flag-waving supporters were outside the court
chanting the party's "Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn!" slogan as
scores of police in riot gear stood guard. "Even in death, we
will stand by you, leader!" a man shouted.
Kasidiaris was released on bail of 50,000 euros ($67,600).
He, Michos and Ilias Panagiotaros were ordered not to leave
Greece. A fourth Golden Dawn legislator, Yannis Lagos, was
ordered to be kept in detention. All four denied the charges.
The four lawmakers were arrested on Saturday alongside
Mihaloliakos and two dozen party members.
They have been charged on what prosecutors say is evidence
linking the party with a series of attacks, including the
stabbing of rapper Pavlos Fissas on Sept. 17 and the killing of
an immigrant earlier this year. A trial date has not been set.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government has vowed to
wipe out a party of "Nazi descendents". It has shied away from
trying to ban the party outright but has ordered investigations
into it and plans to introduce laws against hate speech and
deprive the party of state funding.
Samaras has said the government was "crushing extremism" and
called Golden Dawn a "fascist, neo-fascist, neo-Nazi party whose
leader is currently in jail."
Responding to the charges against him behind closed doors,
Kasidiaris said he was a victim of political persecution and
denied before the magistrate that the party had
paramilitary-like "storm troops" trained by him, a court
The party has been linked by human rights' groups to attacks
on dark-skinned immigrants by gangs of Golden Dawn supporters
dressed in black and wielding baseball bats.
Nazi memorabilia, including flags, helmets with swastikas
and portraits of Adolph Hitler, have been found in the homes of
arrested members, police said. The party rejects the neo-Nazi