Greece finally adopts law imposing tougher fines for hatemongers - World Jewish Congress

Greece finally adopts law imposing tougher fines for hatemongers

Greece finally adopts law imposing tougher fines for hatemongers

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Greece on Tuesday ratcheted up its punishments for racism, anti-Semitism and hate speech, in a move prompted by the rise of a neo-Nazi party in the past two years, the news agency AFP reports.

Golden Dawn leader Nikos MichaloliakosA new law approved by  the Greek parliament sets prison sentences of up to three years -- up from two years -- and fines of up to US$26,000 for "inciting acts of discrimination, hatred or violence" over race, religion or disability. Similar punishment is meted to those denying or praising the Holocaust, genocide and war crimes against humanity.

It took more than a year of debate for Greece to update the legislation, previously dating from 1979, on the repeated urging of the European Commission, the local Jewish community, and the World Jewish Congress. In September 2013, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said Greece’s democratic forces “have a moral obligation to unite against Golden Dawn leaders”, especially those who “publicly incite to crimes, preach hate against minorities, deny and belittle the Holocaust, or viciously assault people based on the color of their skin, their ethnic background, or their political views."

The bill was shelved last year after the main party in the ruling coalition, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy , proposed to exclude state institutions such as the Church and the military from prosecution under the law. The impetus for the update was the rise of the aggressive neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which is under investigation for allegedly instigating attacks on migrants.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece welcomed the passage of the bill and declared: "Today more than ever we need to safeguard the principles of democracy and freedom – in Greece and in Europe alike- against the threat posed by the powers of darkness aiming at repeating the crimes of Nazism and fascism that have cost the lives of millions of innocent people”.

Magistrates have linked Golden Dawn to at least two murders. But the far-right party recently scored election victories, sending its first deputies to the European Parliament. It consistently ranks third in opinion polls, behind New Democracy and the main opposition leftists, Syriza.

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos has publicly denied the existence of gas chambers and crematoria during World War II. He has also called Adolf Hitler "a major historical figure of the 20th century".