Jailed leader of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn released on parole

FILE PHOTO: Nikos Mihaloliakos, leader of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party

By Angeliki Koutantou and Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) -The convicted leader and founder of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party, Nikos Mihaloliakos, has been released from prison on parole, a police source said on Thursday, a move that drew criticism from political parties and the family of a Golden Dawn victim.

Mihaloliakos and other members of Golden Dawn were sentenced in 2020 following a five-year, high-profile political trial for running a criminal gang linked to a string of hate crimes, including the killing of left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013.

Mihaloliakos, 66, who was often seen giving Nazi-style salutes at party gatherings, was serving a 13-year sentence. He has been at home since Wednesday, a police source said.

His request for parole was approved by a board of judges, who took into account his prison labour and health issues, an official at Greece's citizen protection ministry told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The decision was condemned by the main opposition Syriza party, whose leader Stefanos Kasselakis called the move "provocative." In a post on X, he wrote: "Impunity for the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn."

The Socialist PASOK party said the release raised questions, because Mihaloliakos "had not shown a trace of remorse."

Under the restrictions, Mihaloliakos is banned from leaving the greater Athens area and is required to regularly check in at a police station near his home, state broadcaster ERT reported.

Golden Dawn, whose emblem resembles a swastika, stormed into parliament in 2012 at the peak of Greece's debt crisis, seizing on public anger over painful austerity.

The party began to unravel in September 2013, when a party supporter was arrested for the killing of Pavlos Fyssas, a musician and rapper aligned with the political left.

In a statement published by ERT on Thursday, lawyers representing Fyssas' family said Mihaloliakos' release "constitutes a maximum insult to Golden Dawn's victims and their families, and to all of Greek society."

Golden Dawn failed to win a single parliamentary seat in 2019 elections that brought the conservative New Democracy party to power.

Before last year's national election, Greece passed a law amendment to prevent political parties such as Golden Dawn from fielding candidates.

(Additional reporting by Yannis Souliotis, editing by Deepa Babington)