ATHENS – After months of delays and criticism from human rights groups that it was yanked, an anti-racism bill is headed back to the Greek Parliament.
The measure is primarily aimed at the ultra far-right Golden Dawn party whose leaders have been arrested on charges of running a criminal gang and assaulting immigrants, which it has denied.
It was pulled after former cabinet secretary Panyiotis Baltakos, who had the ear of Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, objected to it.
He was later discredited and fired after it was discovered he had met with Golden Dawn leaders to seek an alliance with New Democracy.
The legislation provides stiffer penalties for individuals and political parties that engage in racism or incite racist violence and is set to be debated on Aug. 26.
After Baltakos had it killed, the measure was resubmitted to the House but has not moved beyond the committee stages for several months. The proposal is aimed at updating Greece’s anti-racism legislation, which has stood since 1979, before recent waves of immigrants began pouring into the country.
The draft law includes provisions that mean parties or associations which promote racism will be cut off from state funding of any kind for between one and six months. The Justice Minister will also have the right to fine the people involved in such acts between 10,000 and 100,000 euros.
Individuals engaging in racist acts can be jailed for between three months and three years. They will also face fines of 5,000 to 20,000 euros. If their actions lead to another crime being committed, this will carry a minimum six-month prison sentence.
Jail terms of three months to three years will also be handed down to anyone who praises or denies “the significance of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, the Holocaust and Nazism” in a manner that could incite racial hate or violence.
If the perpetrator is an MP or public official then the jail sentence will be stiffened, rising to between three and five years. Golden Dawn leaders and members have been accused of using Nazi methodology, supporting the Holocaust, and giving the Heil Hitler salute.
Government sources told Kathimerini that the Justice Ministry would be taking on board the concerns voiced by 38 New Democracy MPs who asked in a letter that there be a specific reference to the genocide of Black Sea and Asia Minor Greeks, as well as Armenians and Assyrians.
The Greek Parliament has recognized these slaughters as genocide since 1994. But further safeguards for gay people have not been included so that assaults against them wouldn’t be considered hate crimes.
The action comes just after a former Golden Dawn member, in a report from the American group Human Rights First, said police were aligned with the party and quashed investigations into the assault of immigrants.
Golden Dawn wants all immigrants out of Greece, while Samaras similarly campaigned to rid the country of all illegal immigrants.