ATHENS: A prominent member of Greece's Golden Dawn party recently elected to the European parliament has defected, the party said on Saturday (Jul 13), the latest blow to a troubled organisation facing a damaging murder trial.
Yiannis Lagos, formerly a Golden Dawn lawmaker in Greece, had earlier told a Greek news portal that he was becoming an independent because he disagreed with party policy.
"I feel we are making the wrong political moves," he told newsbeast.gr portal.
"Golden Dawn was never a criminal organisation, nor will it ever be. We always stood for the homeland and the nation," he said.
The party on Saturday called on Lagos to relinquish the European parliament seat he won in May's election.
"Everyone knows that he was elected on a ticket bearing the name of Golden Dawn," the party said.
Once Greece's third-strongest party, Golden Dawn has been in disarray as a verdict in the trial for the 2013 murder of an anti-fascist rapper by alleged members of the party has drawn closer.
The party's previous European deputies quit before the election, and it suffered heavy losses in last week's Greek general election, failing to enter parliament for the first time since 2012.
Based on a flurry of phone conversations between alleged Golden Dawn members on the night rapper Pavlos Fyssas was murdered, the prosecution says the act was allegedly carried out with the knowledge of senior party members, Lagos among them.
Known for his powerful build and biker moustache, the 46-year-old is among over a dozen senior Golden Dawn members on trial including party chief Nikos Michaloliakos.
In the party's military-style hierarchy, Lagos was the party's local commander for the Piraeus area where Fyssas died, prosecutors found.
The rapper's mother Magda Fyssas in 2015 said Lagos had given party henchmen the go-ahead to stab her son.
"Nothing would have been done without approval from Lagos, there is no chance," she told the court.
Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos was also "aware" of the incident, she said.
Alongside many other senior Golden Dawn members, Lagos was jailed after Fyssas' murder but was released pending the conclusion of the trial.