A former leading member of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party was arrested in Belgium on Tuesday (27 April), hours after the European Parliament lifted his immunity, Greek police said. EURACTIV has the details.
A police source confirmed to AFP that MEP Ioannis Lagos was arrested in Brussels under an international arrest warrant to serve a 13-year jail term in Greece.
The Brussels public prosecutor’s office later confirmed that Lagos had been taken into custody, declining to elaborate.
The independent MEP had earlier tweeted: “I am in a Belgian police car… being taken to jail.”
Greek state news agency ANA said procedures were under way for Lagos’ extradition to Greece.
The 48-year-old former nightclub bouncer had been convicted in October, along with other leaders and members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, on several charges, including running a criminal organisation.
But the court ruling could not be enforced until Monday evening, when EU lawmakers in a secret ballot overwhelmingly approved that Lagos be stripped of his immunity as an MEP, with 658 backing the move and only 25 opposed.
Lagos had been elected to the European Parliament in 2019 on a Golden Dawn ticket but defected just weeks later.
Arrest in front of his house
Greek media reported that Lagos was arrested outside his house by the Belgian police a few hours after his immunity was lifted.
The Belgian authorities did not unveil where Lagos is being detained.
“The arrest was a fast-track process,” police sources said, adding that the Belgian police had been in close contact with the Greek authorities before Lagos’ immunity was lifted in order to prevent him from fleeing the EU.
His like-minded colleague Christos Pappas, also convicted while he was a Greek MP, has so far avoided arrest by fleeing the bloc for an unknown destination.
Citing a Serbian foreign affairs official, news website Vice.com recently reported that Pappas was located in “inaccessible areas” on the Serb side of Kosovo or Bosnia.
“In Greece, at some point, they would catch him. That’s probably why he is with far-right Serbs, who helped him escape,” the official said.
On Monday (26 April), news website TVXS published a picture showing Lagos being vaccinated in the COVID Test Center of the European Parliament.
He reportedly declared that he needed the vaccine in order to travel to Norway on Wednesday (28 April).
Lagos will now be detained for 48 hours and a Belgian judge will then decide on his extradition to Greece.
Several reports in Athens suggest that Lagos will seek to delay the process using “legal loopholes” in Belgian law. He reportedly wants to appeal to the Belgian Court of Justice against the arrest warrant, a process that would take up to two months.
The email to MEPs
Just before the vote in the European Parliament, Lagos sent an email, seen by EURACTIV, to other MEPs, asking them to think twice before they waive his immunity.
“Please, take into account that by voting for the waiver of my immunity you send me directly to prison for crimes I have never committed, and you contribute to an unprecedented political persecution,” Lagos said.
“It is really nice that you are particularly sensitive when it comes to human rights violations in Myanmar or Kazakhstan. But what happens when this is the case within the EU borders?” he added.
The EU salary
However, even jailed, Lagos will continue receiving his salary as an MEP, according to Greek law.
European Parliament sources told EURACTIV that Tuesday’s vote only concerned Lagos’ immunity and not his status as MEP.
The same sources added that is up to the competent national authorities to establish, in accordance with their laws, whether an MEP’s status has to be withdrawn after his immunity has been lifted.
[Edited by Georgi Gotev]