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article imageOp-Ed: The hypocrisy of Greek political immunity

By Katerina Nikolas     Sep 20, 2012 in Politics
Greek Members of Parliament enjoy immunity from prosecution, thanks to a law initiated by current PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos. Thus the corrupt elite can commit financial crimes with impunity.
If there's one thing Greece's far-left and far-right have in common it is their mutual cry to have parliamentary immunity from prosecution lifted. Both SYRIZA and Golden Dawn (Chyrsi Avgi) called for the protective law to be repealed in their election campaigns.
Ironically Greek parliamentarians are now calling for the immunity from prosecution to be waived for some lawmakers, but not for all. Following a spate of violent actions led by Golden Dawn MPs, which include demanding with menace to see market vendors ID cards, and attacking illegal immigrants that were illegally working at traffic intersections in Kalamata, parliament is calling for the immunity to be lifted for those Golden Dawn MPs involved.
Ekathimerini reports Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes has informed authorities they are allowed to detain MPs if they are seen committing felonies. Whilst it is right that lawmakers should not be above the law and held to account if caught committing criminal acts, parliamentary immunity continues unabated for those politicians who have committed acts of financial crime against the Greek people.
According to Ekathimerini the Financial Crimes Squad has compiled a list of "30 politicians including former ministers, current lawmakers, local authority officials and general secretaries at ministries, who it is investigating for corruption and tax evasion." Recently all members of parliament agreed to authorize Greek banking authorities to examine Swiss bank accounts to ensure taxes had not been evaded: not surprisingly the Swiss banks refused the request, thus protecting the criminal act of tax evasion committed by at least some of the Greek parliament.
Golden Dawn MPs have been using violent actions to enforce laws which have remained unenforced by authorities, thus taking direct action. According to this report Golden Dawn members recently attacked a hospital doctor. Whilst their violent method should be condemned the reason for the attack was the doctor demanding the infamous "fakelaki"; a brown envelope stuffed with a cash bribe before treatment of a sick patient would be considered. Doctors are amongst the most prolific group to evade taxes by under declaring their income and topping up their salaries with cash bribes. Even in the midst of the worst financial crisis in decades some in authority are still milking the vulnerable without fear of prosecution. Harsh austerity measures have not put an end to the Greek fakelaki system.
Thus far the only lawmakers to offer to waive their immunity from prosecution are actually Golden Dawn MPs. They intend to use the courts to explain their direct actions were necessitated by the state's failure to implement laws. Three Golden Dawn MPs are likely to face prosecution for their actions if their immunity is lifted as requested. Yet at what point can the Greek people expect to see those politicians who have profited financially from their immunity prosecuted? The matter of their immunity is not open to debate and lawmakers who have milked the cash cow from New Democracy and PASOK will continue to enjoy their ill gotten gains stashed away in Swiss bank accounts, without fear of reprisals.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Greece, political immunity, Areopoli, Chrysi Avgi, Evangelos Venizelos