Jailed Greek neo-Nazi MEP has immunity lifted for second time
Jailed Greek neo-Nazi MEP Ioannis Lagos, who continues to draw a European Parliament salary, had his parliamentary immunity lifted for a second time.
The waiver, voted through on Tuesday (14 March) by a show of hands among MEPs sitting in the Strasbourg plenary, comes over a year after the Greek prosecutor first made the request in order to launch criminal proceedings against him for racist tweets.
The lengthy delays echo similar procedural headaches among the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee Juri, and Greek authorities, after Lagos had his immunity lifted for the first time in 2021 in order to serve a prison term.
At that time, Juri cited a backlog of immunity cases for the delay, on top of a 2,000 page document from the Greek authorities that needed to be translated by the European Parliament services. That delay meant his immunity protected him from being arrested.
Similar administrative and technical issues have also slowed down the latest request.
Lagos is entitled to hold a hearing to present his case with Juri before the committee can pass on the report to waive immunity to the plenary.
But organising a remote hearing from a prison cell compounded those delays and the hearing was only held in January of this year.
As a leader of the now defunct extreme rightwing Golden Dawn party, Lagos was extradited from Brussels to Greece in May 2021 after being sentenced to 13 years prison the previous year for belonging to a criminal organisation.
Prior to his extradition and during his time in Brussels, Lagos had complained about not being able to cash in on his daily European Parliament allowance of €323 due to restrictions imposed by the Covid pandemic.
Like all sitting MEPs, he currently draws a monthly gross salary of almost €10,000 and will be entitled to a pension when he turns 63.
Despite being in jail, the 50-year old continues to be relatively active as an MEP, sits on two European Parliament committees, has an office in Brussels and in Strasbourg, as well as two accredited assistants to do his bidding.
Only earlier this month, he submitted a written question on Israel to the European Commission. He hasn’t cast a vote in the plenary since March last year, when he was one of three MEPs that opposed condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine.
"The continued presence of a jailed, outspoken neo-nazi in the European Parliament ranks, remains, a stain on European democracy," said Greek left MEP, Kostas Arvanitis, in an emailed statement.
For its part, the European Parliament says its up to Greek national authorities to strip Lagos of his MEP mandate.
"National legislation in Greece doesn’t lead to him losing his mandate," said a European Parliament spokesperson.
She said not all EU states are the same, noting that a serious offence in some would see the MEP stripped of his or her mandate.
A decision to lift immunity must be made for each charge. There have been four requests made for Lagos, of which two were passed.
The committee MEPs opposed lifting his immunity after he made xenophobic comments on migrants in Moria during a plenary debate.
They had also refused to waive it after he ripped up a Turkish flag because "his actions were made in the context of his duties as a member of and his work at the European Parliament."