ATHENS – An anti-racism bill aimed primarily at the ultra far-right Golden Dawn party is heading back to Parliament after months of delays and objections to some of its measures.
The bill provides stiffer penalties for individuals and political parties that engage in racism or incite racist violence, but excludes attacks on gays as a hate crime.
Most of the opposition comes from lawmakers in the ruling New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who shelved the bill last year amid criticism he was going soft on hate mongers.
The bill allows prison sentences of up to three years and big financial penalties for inciting racist attacks.
Those praising the Holocaust and any cases of genocide which have been recognized by international courts or decisions in the Greek Parliament – including the Holocaust, the mass killing of Christians in Asia Minor between 1908 and 1922, and the killing of Black Sea Greeks – will also face prison time and heavy penalties.
Golden Dawn denies being a neo-Nazi supporter but its leader Nikos Michaloliakos has praised Hitler, members give the Heil Hitler salute and prosecutors amassing evidence for the trail of all 18 extremist leaders and scores of followers on charges of running a criminal gang reportedly found Nazi worship photos.
The bill sets certain limits, noting that punishment is reserved for those deemed to act maliciously, not those setting out scientific or historical arguments for instance.
Commenting on the bill the night before its unveiling, Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou told Kathimerini that it “offers Greek society and democracy a modern and comprehensive shield against racist phenomena, xenophobia and bigotry.” It didn’t explain why it took so long to bring it back though.